Helping hand for grieving dad

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2014
Dion Kahukaka
ROBERT CHARLES/Fairfax NZ

GRIEVING DAD: Dion Kahukaka cuddles his 2-year-old son Zion as he makes arrangements to bring the body of his daughter, Sharnee Ngatai, home from Australia yesterday after she was killed during the weekend.

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Dion Kahukaka is determined to bring his slain daughter's body home to Opunake from Australia.

Sharnee Ngatai, 23, a mother of three, died in a Melbourne Hospital on Saturday after an alleged altercation with her partner at their Hampton Park home.

As Ms Ngatai was an Australian citizen the New Zealand Government won't pay for her body to be returned home.

Mr Kahukaka is now desperately trying to raise enough money to bring her home, which is expected to cost between $7000 and $10,000.

The solo father said he had been overwhelmed by the response.

"It has been tremendous. There's so much love out there from everyone, even from strangers and people who didn't know her."

Ms Ngatai's Tauranga-born partner Steve Cook appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday charged with her murder. Cook, who is the father of Ms Ngatai's three children, was remanded in custody to reappear on May 5.

Ms Ngatai's children, aged between three years and five months old, are being cared for by family members.

Ms Ngatai was born in Australia but moved to Taranaki aged 12 and attended Hawera High School.

She later moved to Opunake to live with Mr Kahukaka until she returned to Australia about four years ago.

Mr Kahukaka told the Taranaki Daily News he was devastated to hear of his daughter's death.

He learned of it after he was contacted by Cook's sister through social media, asking if he could give her a call.

"She asked if I knew already and I said no, that's when she told me," he said.

"He (Cook) can go rot in hell."

Mr Kahukaka, the uncle of Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye who was washed off Paritutu rock in 2012, said he felt a range of emotions including anger towards the man charged with murdering his daughter.

"It was just like how my sister felt when her son was swept out to sea," he said.

Mr Kahukaka said his daughter was a cheery, happy person who loved her children.

"It breaks my heart that she isn't home."

He hoped to hold a tangi for his daughter at Orimupiko Marae, Eltham Rd, where his whanau had connections.

Mr Kahukaka said he would be setting up a trust for his three grandchildren with any money left over.

"It's the hardest thing now, what happens to them.

"I want them home here, I don't want them to live in the same country as their father. I would love to do that but we will just have to see how it works out."

Sarah-Lee Kahukaka, 17, said her sister was an attractive, fun-loving woman who enjoyed music, dancing and loved her children.

"We used to always dance, all of the time," she said.

Brother DJ, 14, described Ms Ngatai as a loving sister who really cared about people.

New Plymouth tattooist Azah Wirangi, of Stylah Ink, said he felt moved to help after seeing Mr Kahukaka's post on Facebook.

"I don't know the family at all but I thought I'm going to jump on board and help out," he said yesterday.

"If the situation was reversed I'd like people to do that for my family."

Mr Wirangi said he would be donating all of the money he made from tattoos today and tomorrow to the appeal.

Donations to help bring Ms Ngatai's body home can be made at the Sharnee Ngatai Memorial Fund page on Facebook.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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