Ashburton shooting: Family and friends speak

JOELLE DALLY, BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 14:15 02/09/2014
IAIN McGREGOR/The Press

Minister for Social Development and the Work and Income CEO have made assurances the safety of staff is paramount in light of Monday's shooting at the Ashburton Work and Income office.

Susan Leigh Cleveland
SUPPLIED
'THEY WERE HER FAMILY': Ashburton shooting victim Susan Leigh Cleveland with her rottweilers Holly, Zena and Cameo.
Lindy Curtis
SUPPLIED
INJURED IN SHOOTING: Lindy Curtis remains in a stable condition in Christchurch Hospital.

Minister responds to shooting

PM's condolences for shooting victims

Russell Tully mugshot
Russell John Tully, 48, is accused of murdering two Ashburton women in the town's Work and Income office, and attempting to kill a third.
Peg Noble
'A HEART OF GOLD': Peggy Noble lived for her job, friends and family say.

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One victim of the Ashburton Work and Income office shooting "loved her job" while another moved to the town following the Christchurch earthquakes, according to family and friends.

More details about the victims emerged today as the accused, Russell John Tully, 48, made his first appearance in court following his arrest yesterday.

He appeared in the Christchurch District Court this morning charged with murdering Ashburton women Susan Leigh Cleveland and Peggy (Peg) Turuhira Noble and attempting to murder Lindy Louise Curtis. He was remanded to the High Court on September 23. Bail was not sought.

Curtis remains in a stable condition in Christchurch Hospital with leg injuries.

VICTIM 'LIVED FOR HER JOB'

Noble, 67, was on reception yesterday morning.

She was 10 minutes from her tea break at the time of the shooting.

Friend Elizabeth Rees said Noble was a second mother to her daughter, Kim, who worked in the same office.

Kim was due to relieve Noble on reception and had a narrow escape.

''She's been crying and crying. She came home, saw her kids and it hit her,'' Rees said.

Her daughter and another staff member had run for their lives to the back door of the office and then out to the street, Rees said.

''She [Kim] said as she was running out of the building her body felt 10 times its weight. It felt like running in slow motion.''

Noble had worked for Work and Income for 20 years and was supposed to retire years ago but loved her job.

''She lived for her job,'' Rees said. ''She had a heart of gold and would do anything for you.''

Noble was a regular at the Ashburton RSA along with her longtime partner, Donald. She became an associate member in 2011.

"She was heaps of fun to be around. Always had a smile on her face," RSA staff member Brenda Costello said this
morning.

"She had a lot of friends in the club. Every Thursday night she was here for happy hour.

"We're all finding it pretty hard."

A moment's silence would be held at the club as a mark of respect to Noble on Thursday night.

"She was a great girl. Very loyal. It's going to take a whole for the town to get over it," RSA president Maurice Baker said.

Cleveland, 55, had asked to be transferred to Ashburton's Work and Income office after the Christchurch earthquakes.

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"She found the earthquakes a bit much," mum Kathleen Cleveland said today.

Kathleen Cleveland said her daughter, who was known as Leigh, had always been a happy person and she was shocked by her death.

"I heard it on the radio at 12 o'clock [yesterday] and I rang her cellphone. I thought I hadn't heard from her for some time and I knew things weren't good."

Leigh Cleveland had never married or had children, but loved horses and dogs. She grew up in Alexandra and moved to Fairlie to work with horses when she was a teenager.

She later joined the New Zealand Army as a civilian to work with the army band and had been working for Work and Income for more than 10 years.

She was an active member of the local South Island Rottweiler Club and had two rottweiler dogs.

"That's quite a big part of her life," her mother said. "Her dogs, they were her children."

Friend Debbie Renga said Cleveland's dogs were starting to notice something was wrong.

"They're both getting well loved and cared for at the moment. They were her family."

Cleveland was well-known around New Zealand for love of dogs and had received top awards for obedience training. 

Her death had left a "huge gap" in many lives, Renga said.

"She was an inspiration to a lot of people with her knowledge, and her encouragement of that she gave my son, when he started in the dog shows, and me was just amazing." 

Renga said Cleveland had loved her home in Ashburton and enjoyed being in the small town, where she felt safe after Christchurch's earthquakes.

She had always put her hand up for extra work and still enjoyed the job after so many years.

"As everyone would know, they have their ups and their downs with the difference ones they deal with, but she did enjoy her job." 

Renga said she wondered how someone could be "so mindless to leave such a hole in so many hearts".

"She was just a very very special person. She'll never be forgotten."

POLICE SEEK MORE INFO

Speaking to media outside the Ashburton Police Station this afternoon, Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald confirmed Tully did not have a firearms' licence.

Inquiries were ongoing to locate the shotgun used in yesterday's shooting and establish where Tully sourced it from.

Fitzgerald said two runners who came into contact with the gunman on the Ashburton River Track had come forward to police and about 80 officers were still working on the investigation.

A large section of Ashburton's CBD remained off limits this morning as police and forensic staff in white boiler suits carried out a scene examination at the site of yesterday's shooting.

Two scenes were being examined and  police would likely be at murder scene in Cass St for three to four more days, Fitzgerald said.

He refused to answer questions about specifics of the investigation because the case was before the courts.

Members of the public have begun to mark the tragedy, placing flowers at the edge of the cordon.

A hearse earlier arrived at the scene of yesterday's shooting on Cass St as police prepared to remove the body of a victim.

Police particularly wanted to hear from anyone who was in Ashburton between 8am and 5pm yesterday and saw a man wearing dark-coloured clothing, a rolled-up balaclave and a dark backpack and who was riding or pushing a dark mountain bike.

Fitzgerald said a man fitting that description was seen near Ashburton New World supermarket and police wanted anyone with similar sightings to come forward.
 
Anyone with information should contact police in Ashburton on 03 307 8411 or could provide information anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. 

- The Press

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