Police bungle 'not behind' unsolved murder

IN LOVING MEMORY: George Taiaroa was loved by his family.
IN LOVING MEMORY: George Taiaroa was loved by his family.

A botch-up which saw an advert placed in a hunting newsletter naming the number one suspect in the George Taiaroa murder is not to blame for the fact no arrest has yet been made, the officer in charge of the case says.

Taiaroa, 67, was gunned down a year ago today while operating a stop-go sign on a one-lane bridge on Tram Rd, near Atiamuri, by a person in a blue Jeep Cherokee.

While it has been reported that the motive was related to the ethnicity of Taiaroa, police have refused to reveal the motive.

Their number one suspect, Whangamomona man Quin Winders, denied in an interview with Fairfax NZ that he is racist.

There has also been talk that an ad, placed by Tokoroa Senior Constable Tony Andrews last June, in a Taranaki deerstalkers' newsletter, could have hindered an arrest.

It outlined information police wanted about Winders, which included questions "have you heard any rumours regarding Quin? and "have you ever had any issues or run ins with him?"

At the time Waikato University criminal law expert Brenda Midson said the move could jeopardise a fair trial if Winders was one day charged.

However, Bay of Plenty Detective Inspector Tim Anderson yesterday told the Waikato Times that the police were not concerned by the publication.

"It was never intended to be published by police, and it wasn't published by police. It was published by a third party. A well-meaning third party, but I'm not concerned."

It was supposed to be a letter to the association asking for information, but the organisation published it thinking they were doing the right thing, Anderson said.

Despite the fact there's still been no arrest, Anderson - who has been on the case since the beginning - said progress had been made.

"We have to be thorough, we have to be meticulous, but also, we have to be patient. We only get one shot at this through the courts and we want to make sure we put our best foot forward."

The detective, who has been in constant contact with Taiaroa's widow Helen, would not be drawn on the specifics of the case other than saying that the police are "confident".

"We've had a number of developments over the year," Anderson said.

He would not be drawn on whether police had obtained the murder weapon or if an arrest would be made in the near future, but said time was on their side.

"In cases like this time is our friend, it doesn't provide any refuge to any offender . . . time allows us to do things properly, to do things right and that's just what we have done."

Last month Fairfax NZ spoke to murder suspect Quin Winders at his Whangamomona farm.

He denied killing the much-loved husband, father and grandfather and said police had fabricated lies about him.

When questioned about the racial motive, Winders said he worked for a Maori gentleman. He also said his Jeep Cherokee was purple, not blue like the one being searched for by the police.

Anderson refused to name the suspect police believed killed Taiaroa, but said police had seized a blue Jeep Cherokee they believed was involved in the crime.

He would not elaborate on whether the jeep had been formally identified by witnesses at the scene as the jeep involved.

"Whilst George's family reflect on this a year on, we're asking the public to reflect on this as well and come forward with any information no matter how small or irrelevant they might think it might be," Anderson said.

Meanwhile, those in Atiamuri will also be remembering Taiaroa today with the shooting still clear in their minds a year on.

"I had gone past him four times that day," farmer Brian Eccles said. "Getting silage because we were going through the drought."

Eccles said at the time of the shooting he was sitting on the deck of his Tirohanga Rd home.

The "blue Jeep Cherokee" which had used Tirohanga Road to escape the scene, would have had to drive past Eccles' home. "I don't know how we missed the jeep going up the road," Eccles said, talking about the quiet country road he lives on.

Lisa Campbell, manager of Atiamuri tavern the Pukeko and Bull, said Taiaroa had been a customer.

She said the community was doing OK and that rumours surrounding Taiaroa's death had ceased.