MH17 victim's family sceptical of justice

Mary Menke
Mary Menke

Angry relatives of Kiwi MH17 disaster victim Mary Menke want those responsible brought to justice but are sceptical a fair investigation can be carried out.

Mary Menke, 65, and her husband, Gerry, were among 298 passengers and crew who perished when the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was shot out of the sky by a missile while flying over Ukraine on Friday morning (NZ time).

The couple was returning home to Mallacoota, about 500 kilometres east of Melbourne, after celebrating Gerry's 70th birthday in Europe. They were then to head to Timaru to attend the funeral of Mary's aunt, Rata Smith, which was held yesterday.

Nephew Hayden Tocker, who lives in North Canterbury, said the worst fears of his mother Ann, Mary's younger sister, were realised when she checked an email Mary had sent her days before the flight containing the couple's travel plans.

Her New Zealand-based family was "pretty shocked at the moment" and Tocker was unsure if or when they would travel to Australia.

He was keen to see those responsible brought to justice but remained skeptical after reading recent media reports.

"That [justice] would be nice, but the feeling is that it is going to be very difficult to pin down anyone with the site not being secure for the investigation," he said.

Another relative said the family was "gutted".

Mary grew up in View Hill, near Oxford, where her mother, Betty, was a teacher and father, Bill, the principal at the local school. Bill, 91, still lives in Oxford, while Betty died 18 months ago.

She attended Timaru Girls' High School between 1962 and 1965.

Mary married Gerry Menke, who lived in the small fishing village, in 1972. They had four children, Sara, Brett, Anna and Paul, and five grandsons.

Relatives were flying from around the world to Brett Menke's Mallacoota home to support each other, a family representative said yesterday. Most were expected to arrive today.

"They are still deeply in mourning, " she said.

"They just want a second with everyone before they say anything [publicly]."

While Mary trained as a dental nurse, her cousin Margaret Smith said she could have been a top model.

"She just was the most talented, good-looking, amazing girl I've ever met . . . she just stood out and had a beautiful personality, " Smith said.

The couple ran an innovative abalone pearl producing company, Mallacoota Abalone Pearls Australia, and Mary also ran the local hairdresser and beauty salon with daughter, Anna.

Sharon Sharp, who flatted with Mary in Dunedin, was reluctant to speak of her best friend out of respect of the family, but remembered her as "a pretty special person " who last visited only two months ago.

Gerardus - better known as Gerry - migrated to Australia from Holland as a teenager in 1958.

In Mallacoota, he worked as an abalone diver and set up a fishermen's co-operative, employing many locals.

In his later years, he moved into aquaculture and established the pearl business.

The Menke family remembered Gerry as a "great family man" with a dry sense of humour and someone who enjoyed life to the fullest.


The Dutch Embassy in Wellington and its consulates in Auckland and Christchurch have opened condolence books for people wanting to pay their respects to victims of flight MH17.

The locations will be open between 10am and 12pm until Thursday at the Netherlands Embassey at 20 Ballance St, Wellington, 57 Symonds St, Auckland, and 9 Sir Gil Simpson Dr in Christchurch.

Click here to access the book of condolence

The Press