Homeless suspect sought MPs' help

22:31, Sep 01 2014
WINSTON PETERS: NZ First leader.

Russell John Tully has a chequered history including homelessness, illness, a broken marriage, an interest in hunting and firearms, and an obsession with an exotic philosophy.

Tully was worried about his lack of housing and in recent weeks he resorted to camping in a tent by the Ashburton River and had also been living under the bridge at times, locals say.

He fell out with a flatmate shortly after moving back to Ashburton.

WANTED: Russell John Tully, 48.
ARRESTED: Russell John Tully, 48.

He was born in Ashburton in 1966 to a nurse and a farmhand.

He recently spoke of his frustration about the lack of accommodation in Ashburton and took his case to political figures including Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew and NZ First MP Winston Peters as well as Ashburton Mayor Angus McKay.

He found temporary accommodation through Presbyterian Support but that lasted only four nights. Presbyterian Support Ashburton manager Jackie Girvan said Tully appeared desperate and frustrated.


Girvan said social and private housing options in the town were limited.

Tully believed Work and Income and other government agencies wanted him to leave Ashburton and move to Timaru or Christchurch.

Suffering a skin condition and a lower back injury, Tully was on a disability benefit and said his doctor recommended he stay somewhere warm and dry.

Last month, Tully pitched his tent in the Ashburton Domain "as a protest" but he was soon moved on after complaints.

He then lived in his car until he sold it for cash and moved to the riverbed.

He said he was frustrated a Housing New Zealand property in Ashburton was unoccupied when he was homeless.

He had approached the property's neighbours and was told no-one had lived there for 14 months, but Housing NZ reportedly claimed it was tenanted.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said he was contacted by Tully on August 14 by email but replies kept bouncing back.

He said Tully wrote about the difficulty of getting a house to live in and Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew had not helped him.

An email shows he also wrote to the offices of the Speaker, and Cabinet ministers Gerry Brownlee and Paula Bennett, among others.

Family in Christchurch refused to speak to The Press.

Former Picton man Chris Brooks, who lives on the West Coast, went to school with Tully's ex-wife. He met Tully about 10 years ago when they both lived in Marlborough. When Tully and his wife separated, Tully asked Brooks if he could stay at his house while he sorted himself out.

It was after he read the book The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield that he started to go downhill, Brooks said.

The book discusses various psychological and spiritual ideas that are rooted in many ancient Eastern traditions.

"He got into that book.

"He started preaching about the prophecy and how we were all living our lives wrong."

Brooks asked him to leave after about three months because it was not working out, he said.

He had not seen Tully in more than four years.

The Press