Family consider legal action over Opunake shooting

BLANTON SMITH
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2014
Antony Ratahi
FAMILY PHOTO: Antony Ratahi
tdn ratahi stand
CAMERON BURNELL
An AOS member during the hostage siege where Antony Ratahi was shot dead by police.

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Discrepancies in information regarding the shooting of hostage-taker Antony Ratahi could see his family take legal action against police.

An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released on Thursday exonerated the officer who shot Ratahi, as did a police investigation released in 2012.

Despite knowing the IPCA's report would justify the shooting, Renee Ratahi said there were details given to the family three years ago that had changed since then.

"At the end of the day for me and my sisters I don't think justice has been served. I think some things were right, but some things we should fight for," she said.

On July 15, 2011, after recently being released from prison Antony Ratahi, who was 46 at the time, took his former partner Marcelle Beer hostage in Opunake's Headlands Hotel.

Then, on July 16, after a 13-hour stand-off with police a Special Tactics Group officer shot Ratahi when he reached for what was thought to be a gun in his jacket pocket.

In the week after the shooting Auckland-based Detective Superintendent Andrew Lovelock told the Taranaki Daily News Ratahi's gun was found in the hotel foyer.

But in the IPCA report the gun was found in Ratahi's inner left jacket pocket on July 17 - a day after the shooting.

This caught the attention of Ratahi's daughters given the IPCA report also stated their father was quickly searched shortly after the shooting and only a kitchen knife was found.

Renee Ratahi said the differing information was a worry considering her father was shot when he reached into his jacket.

"The one (discrepancy) about the weapon being found later in the foyer and now its found on him, it's like that stuff makes us want to fight it," she said. "If that (the gun) was a lie what else is."

The IPCA report found the STG officers had been in the hotel for more than an hour after the shooting while they were debriefed, something the STG commander said was standard practice.

However, IPCA findings suggested they should have left immediately after the hotel was cleared to avoid accusations of tampering with the scene or conferring about what happened.

Renee Ratahi said claims the family had not asked to be involved in negotiations before it was too late were also debatable.

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She said police had visited her and she had offered to accompany them to Opunake.

"They said no, that I'd only make the situation worse," she said.

"I could have stopped him."

Renee Ratahi said the family were still coming to grips with the release of the report and were yet to make a final decision on whether they would take their concerns further.

But it was a possibility given the family has previously been approached by lawyers keen to take a case. "It's just a lot to digest really," she said. "I feel like we may want to fight this, but our emotions are all over the place."

- Taranaki Daily News

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