Christine Rankin has denied allegations that she had an affair with a man whose high profile real estate agent wife died suddenly last year.
The controversial pro-smacking campaigner, who was appointed a Families Commissioner last week, has been accused of being instrumental in the demise of a marriage between Wellington-based agent Margo McAuley and her husband Kim MacIntyre.
The 42-year-old Tommy's Real Estate agent was found dead at her $1.5 million Nevay Rd, Miramar home on October 28, 2008.
Police said there were no suspicious circumstances and referred the death to the coroner. An inquest is yet to be held.
Seventy-one days after McAuley's death, the celebrity estate agent's widower married Rankin at a private ceremony. The January 7 wedding at Mangawhai, north of Auckland, was Rankin's fourth.
Tonight Rankin released a statement denying she had had an affair with Mr MacIntyre.
"Many think there was an affair. There was not. We did get married at the beginning of this year, and that may seem unusual to outside eyes.
"But sometimes when things happen that are almost impossible to deal with, in each other you find a strength and a way to live.
"I feel devastated by her death, but I cannot tell my side of the story because to do so would be to expose details that are private to Margo."
When questioned on TV1's Sunday about the timing of Ms McAuley's death - just days after Mr McIntyre left his wife - she responded: "It's tragic and I said all that I'm going to say."
The fiesty former Work and Income New Zealand chief executive and pro-smacking campaigner was earlier this week appointed to the commission despite widespread political opposition and questions about her private life.
Sunday News today that sources close to McAuley said she had introduced her husband to Rankin, and MacIntyre and the ex-Winz CEO began seeing each other months before the tragic death.
But it is understood both MacIntyre and McAuley continued to live in their marital home until her sudden death.
During the week of McAuley's funeral, Sunday News telephoned Rankin and MacIntyre to inquire whether they were in a relationship.
Both angrily refused to discuss the matter and Rankin threatened legal action against the newspaper.
Rankin: "You talk to whoever you want to talk to about it but you are not going to talk to me ... that's all I've got to say."
MacIntyre: "I have heard all these rumours and it's bull****."
One month after McAuley died, Rankin and MacIntyre were videoed dancing together on election night at the National Party's celebrations at Auckland's Sky City Grand Hotel.
They now live together on Auckland's North Shore.
Wellington businessman Kris Gallagher married to McAuley before MacIntyre told Sunday News his ex-wife had displayed symptoms of depression during their seven-year marriage but the condition appeared to him to worsen when she learned of MacIntyre's affection for Rankin.
But Gallagher, who said he remained best friends with MacIntyre until her death, said it was unfair to single out any problem or incident which led to her sudden death.
Gallagher said members of McAuley's family, who travelled from Ireland for the funeral, told him they were unhappy with the way their daughter's marriage to MacIntyre had ended.
"Her family certainly were (upset)", he said. "They weren't happy with Kim in any way, shape or form.
"I met them off the plane and they weren't interested in talking to him at all, actually."
MacIntyre did not give a eulogy during the funeral service at Wellington's St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church.
Gallagher said some of McAuley's family members remained in Ireland because of "strong views" around her death.
"Most of them that stayed mainly brothers stayed because of serious views because (McAuley) was in fairly close contact with them."
In a 2006 interview with New Zealand House and Garden magazine, McAuley said of her husband and home: "Kim is my calming factor and this house is our sanctuary."
Gallagher said he spoke with MacIntyre following McAuley's death.
"I saw (MacIntyre) immediately after and he told me how remorseful (he was) for doing various bits and pieces ... for not being there for her."
But he added: "(MacIntyre) is off doing whatever is best for him, really."
Gallagher said Rankin's name was first mentioned to him by McAuley a year before her death. He believed a relationship began taking shape six months before McAuley's death.
Both Rankin and MacIntyre did not return several Sunday News calls last week.
Told of the claims surrounding the relationship between Rankin and MacIntyre, Labour leader Phil Goff last night told Sunday News: "I prefer not to comment on personal lives usually, but in this case I will say I find the situation quite disturbing."
Earlier in the week, United Future leader and Minister of Revenue Peter Dunne, who had the Families Commission set up as part of a post-2002 election deal with Labour, said Rankin should resign from her post "for the sake of New Zealand families".
Dunne said she had too much baggage to be effective.
"Christine Rankin is a complete mistake. She is the wrong sort of person for this role. She is divisive, controversial and disruptive," Dunne said.
"I think Ms Rankin's profile and her record suggest that she will not be a team player and this commission will become politicised and it will become the sort of vehicle by which one's personal agendas can be pursued.
"That's not what it was set up to achieve."
On Wednesday, Families Commission Whanau Reference Group member Druis Barrett stood down after finding Rankin had the job, saying he was "kind of gutted that she was appointed".
Following the announcement of Rankin's appointment, Prime Minister John Key said Rankin had dedicated her life to caring for families. Told last night of this latest controversy, Key's spokesman Kevin Taylor said the PM had no comment.