Murder suspects may have hitched ride

BLAIR ENSOR AND JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 17:30 15/09/2013

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Police investigating the murder of a Rangiora man believe one or more of the suspects may have hitch-hiked to Christchurch after the killing. 

Tony John Lochhead, 51, died inside his doorway after a group turned up at his Rangiora home and attacked him and his brother Peter in the driveway on Friday night.

Lochhead's body was removed from the scene last night, and a post-mortem examination was conducted this morning. Police are not releasing any details of the post-mortem findings yet.

Detective Inspector David Long says the investigation is continuing, with a scene examination at the White Street property expected to continue until tomorrow. Police have also been speaking to a number of persons of interest today.

Several people have reported sightings of the silver Subaru which was abandoned near the motorway south of Rangiora shortly after the incident, and which police believe may have been involved.

"We believe it is possible that one or more occupants of that vehicle has hitch-hiked towards Christchurch after leaving the vehicle," Long said.

"We would like to hear from any member of the public who picked up a hitch-hiker on or near the motorway between the Kaiapoi-Rangiora area and Christchurch, between about 9.30 and 10.30 on Friday night."

Twenty-five officers are working on the homicide investigation. Police could not confirm last night how Lochhead was killed and what weapon was used or whether any of the men who attacked the Lochhead brothers knew them.

Long said police were keeping an "open mind" over the motive for the killing.

"We just don't know if it was a random attack as such, or whether someone went there for a specific reason or purpose. We have no idea who is responsible for this crime."

Asked if Peter Lochhead knew the attackers, he said: "He hasn't said that he does."

"We're getting an account from him of his recollection of what occurred. He's been through a traumatic experience."

Asked if the incident was drug-related, Long said he could "make no comment".

To Long's knowledge, police had not been to the address before. Both brothers were understood to be unemployed.

The altercation had started in the driveway and continued in the doorway of the flat. It involved both brothers and "one or more" people.

A 111 call was made at 9.23pm.

Tony Lochhead was still alive when police and paramedics arrived, but died soon after. Peter Lochhead was treated at Christchurch Hospital for minor injuries overnight.

"There were attempts to render first aid to the victim by the other brother, and police staff who attended also did their best," Long said. A third flatmate was not present at the time.

The Subaru had travelled from Lineside Rd and south on State Highway 1 before it was dumped near the Ohoka Rd off- ramp, "at 10pm at the latest".

Police dogs were unable to track the car's occupants. 

The vehicle had been seized by police and would be forensically examined today.

Gary Taylor, whose house backs on to the crime scene, heard a lot of "angry yelling" coming from the property about the time of the attack.

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"A little while later I heard quite a few doors slamming." He also heard what sounded like Tony Lochhead say, "Peter, turn on the lights". He thought nothing of it and was shocked to wake to a crime scene outside his house.

Taylor described Tony Lochhead as laid-back, but with the potential to be "fiery".

Anyone with information on the vehicle or homicide is asked to contact Christchurch police on 03 363-7806 or the anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111.

- Sunday Star Times

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