The death of a Chinese man and the serious stabbing of a family member in Palmerston North's Russell St have left a neighbourhood bewildered as police battle language difficulties to piece together what happened.
Police, fire and ambulance services were called to the house about 6.40pm on Friday after reports of screaming.
The man in his 60s died at the scene, with severe burns to his body likely to delay formal identification. An autopsy was carried out yesterday.
The woman in her 30s, who was a relative, had stab wounds to her face and upper body. She has had two rounds of surgery and was described as being in a serious but not life-threatening condition.
A Palmerston North Hospital spokesman said the woman underwent surgery at Palmerston North Hospital on Saturday before being transferred to Hutt Hospital on Sunday.
The officer in charge of the Manawatu CIB, Detective Sergeant Craig Sheridan, said the situation was horrific, and neighbour Barb Bradnock said it was just "mortifying".
About 10 people, including children, were staying at the house.
They had never been in trouble with the police, and they were described as good neighbours.
One man, who did not want to give his name, said the first he knew about the tragedy was when he arrived home to find the area cordoned off.
He said the residents had always seemed really happy in the past.
Bradnock said she had only talked to the family since the incident to ask how they were.
"I don't know how they will cope. It's just mortifying."
The family would often deliver her mail to her front door and she described them as friendly and polite. She said they included a young couple with two sons, a set of grandparents and another adult, and a brother of one of the couple, with his twin daughters, was staying with them.
"They were the most amazing neighbours that you could ever wish for and I feel heartbroken that anything bad has happened to them."
The police investigation of the scene was completed yesterday, but no further information was to be released until a formal identification had been carried out, and next of kin had been informed.
The incident was not being treated as a homicide investigation.
Sheridan said it would take time to talk to all of the witnesses, who were devastated by events, and who spoke English as a second language. An interpreter was being called in to assist.
"We are not looking for anyone else, so the investigation is quite confined, but it is very unpleasant for everybody."
The police focus at the weekend was on a thorough scene examination and search for any weapons that might have been involved.
"Another key focus for us is determining the series of events that led up to this tragic incident and understanding the family dynamic."
- Manawatu Standard