Ratahi family consider case against police

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 19/02/2014

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The family of slain gunman Antony Ratahi are still seeking answers almost three years after he was shot dead by police.

They say they are considering mounting a legal case against police over the shooting, but they are waiting for the release of the Independent Police Conduct Authority's investigation.

Ratahi, 46, of Stratford, was killed after a 13-hour standoff with armed police at Opunake's Headlands Hotel in July 2011.

He had a firearm, barged into the restaurant and barricaded himself inside the building with his former girlfriend Marcelle Beer. Police launched three separate investigations into the incident.

In May 2012 it was revealed 14 members of the armed offenders squad had been drinking before the siege.

While the police investigation into Ratahi's death has been completed and found the shooting was lawful and justified, the IPCA investigation has not yet been finalised.

A spokeswoman for the IPCA said its investigation was in its final stages.

Ratahi's eldest daughter, Cassia Proebstel, told the Daily News the family had been approached by a couple of lawyers keen to take a case against police.

"We are just kind of waiting to see what the outcome will be, because we don't know what we are fighting at the moment but we will be fighting," Proebstel said.

She said the IPCA had contacted her last week to say a draft report had been completed but they couldn't say when it would be released.

"He said it should be done in a few weeks but then he said ‘in saying that if there is any wrongdoing from the police side that would

mean a longer investigation'.

"I believe that there is something wrong, that's been done, and that's why it's taking so long. The whole family believes that as well."

Proebstel said initially police had kept the family informed about the process but after it came to light AOS officers had been drinking the communication stopped.

"Since then we haven't been able to sit down and ask anything, we don't know anything and the police don't tell us anything. All of a sudden we were kept in the dark."

Central Districts crime manager Detective Inspector Chris Bensemann said he had remained in contact with the family since 2012 and made sure they had his telephone number.

"Once our investigation was completed we advised the family that we were awaiting the report from the IPCA and there was nothing further we could add," Bensemann said.

"We have always encouraged them to ring us if they had any queries at all."

The police investigation found Ratahi's shooting was lawful and justified, the officer who fired the fatal shot, the AOS commander and Special Tactics Group commander, who were in control of the situation, had not been drinking.

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Proebstel said she would never accept her father's death was lawful and justified and was still angry police had not allowed her to speak to her father before he was shot.

"I'm sure as hell we would have been able to help getting him out of that hostage situation," she said.

"That is what really guts me, because when he was a fugitive it was us who were able to assure him that we would be there for him no matter what as long as he handed himself in."

The IPCA spokeswoman said the interview phase of its investigation had concluded and it was now at the deliberative stage, assessing evidence and drafting a report.

"The authority hopes to be able to publicly release our report in the next few months."

- Taranaki Daily News

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