Former Kiwi student killed in Australia

SLAIN: Sharnee Ngatai was a mum of three.
SLAIN: Sharnee Ngatai was a mum of three.

Grieving friends of slain Taranaki mother of three Sharnee Ngatai are figuratively wearing her heart on their sleeves in a bid to bring her body home from Melbourne.

The 23-year-old died early on Saturday morning after an alleged domestic dispute with her partner, Tauranga-born car builder Steve Cook. Her family are trying to transport her remains to her spiritual resting place.

Australian-born Ngatai spent her teenage years in Opunake before relocating across the Tasman. It is her family's responsibility to repatriate her remains because the Australian and New Zealand governments do not provide that service. 

Her family established a memorial fund after her death, an initiative boosted by a New Plymouth-based tattooist, who will donate all income from his work tomorrow and Thursday.

Azah Wirangi, who moved to Taranaki for the birth of his son two months ago, learned of the family's plight via social media and was moved to contribute through his business, Stylah Ink.

"I'm not from here, I don't know the family, Wirangi, who is from Rangiriri in the Waikato, said. "I saw the post of Facebook and thought I want to help the family out.

"If the situation was reversed I'd like people to do that for my family."

He told Fairfax Media bookings were steady for 10 centimetre by 10cm designs costing from $50 to $100.

Cook, 22, has been charged with murder after the alleged disturbance at the couple's Hampton Park property.

Paramedics were summoned to the address about 2am on Saturday and, after administering treatment, she was taken to a Melbourne hospital where she died a short time later.

Ngatai's children, aged between 3 years and 5 months old, are being cared for by family members.

Cook did not plead during a brief court appearance and was remanded in custody pending his next appearance on May 5.

Ngatai's brother, John Bowman, was in court yesterday and afterwards urged victims of domestic abuse to speak out.

"Always make sure you support your family and are involved in their everyday life so you know what's happening to them.

"If you see any violence towards women speak out when people don't have a voice," he told the Herald Sun newspaper.

Meanwhile, friends of Ngatai on both sides of the Tasman have paid tribute to her on a Facebook memorial page.

"Such a big tender heart. I'm quite dumbfounded that this has happened, such a young and beautiful life," wrote Cheri Dawn Murphy.

"I will shed tears til I fall asleep Hun and think about you and send my love to your kids.

"When you're up there take care of all those little ones also too young to leave this earth and rest easy honey. ...

"I hope you make it back home back to Aotearoa to rest."

Ngahina Ranui posted: "You were a beautiful soul Sharnee and your kids will always know that, ill (sic) always know that, and I hope you knew it too."

Jasmine Brown, a friend of Cook's, sympathised with his plight.

"My heart is with you as you go through this tragic time kuz ... . at the end of the day only God can juge (sic) you."

Donations can be made at

Fairfax Media