Work and Income shooting suspect arrested

JOELLE DALLY, BLAIR ENSOR, AUDREY MALONE AND NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 19:50 01/09/2014
IAIN MCGREGOR/The Press

Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett and chief executive Brendan Boyle speak about the fatal shooting in Ashburton .

Russell Tully mugshot
Russell John Tully, 48, is accused of murdering two Ashburton women in the town's Work and Income office, and attempting to kill a third.

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Police have arrested a man in connection with a double fatal shooting in Ashburton after a tip-off from a farmer.

They had been searching for Russell John Tully, 48, since the shooting at a Work and Income office in the town this morning. 

Tully was found on a rural property south east of Ashburton.

He was brought down by police dogs and sustained dog bites. Police are still searching for the weapon, thought to be a sawn off shotgun.

He was brought back to the Ashburton police station for a medical examination. No charges have yet been laid.

Police found him on the property after two sightings. They sent a helicopter and dog patrol to the area and found Tully. 

''This is a huge relief,'' Superintendent Gary Knowles said.

Farmer Dan White, 33, said he was in his ute on his way to move a mob of sheep when he was confronted with the alleged gunman walking toward him through a paddock. 

"My heart leapt out of my chest," White said this evening at his property on Terrace Rd, south of Ashburton.

"He knew I'd seen him, and I knew I'd seen him, but I just didn't make a big deal out of it,’’  he said of the incident which happened about 2.45pm. 

"I just carried on as if I didn't know what was going on, called the police straight away and was talking to them as I drove off down the road."

Police cordoned the area and arrested Tully about 5.30pm. His bike could be seen lying on the road next to a gate which appeared to have been rammed open.

White suspected the alleged gunman had been hiding in a hedge.

Asked how he knew it was the gunman, White said he'd Googled the shooting at lunchtime so "I knew what I was looking for".

"I've been looking over my shoulder all day.

"How many people come walking through your property dressed in camo gear? He was wearing a green shirt ... had a woolly hat on and he was carrying his bike.

"He had a backpack on and he fitted the description. [He looked] just like a guy who'd been hunting," he said, although he did not see any weapon.

Police had thanked him for alerting them about the alleged gunman.

Police had launched a search after a shooting that killed two and injured a third at the Ashburton Work and Income Office on the corner of Cass and Moore streets.

A balaclava-clad man carrying a sawn-off shotgun entered the office and fired several shots before fleeing on a bike.

Police warned the public to stay indoors and to not approach the man. Schools were also put in lockdown. 

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Earlier armed police stormed an empty Ashburton property during their search.

They had surrounded the Willow St property just before 2.30pm and yelled at the occupants to come out.

After entering the house about 3pm, police called out: "It's all clear."

Paul Meek, 54, watched the police storm the property from his nearby home.

"All of a sudden there were police everywhere," he said.

"They went in pretty quick."

Meek heard the explosion as police let off a smoke grenade, then bangs as police rammed the door.

"It was certainly a false alarm," he said.

Meek was nervous knowing there was "a gunman on the loose".

"It's not me I'm worried about, it's the poor people who have died. Hopefully they catch him soon."


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TWO WOMEN SHOT

The Ashburton Guardian said a witness saw a man wearing a black balaclava enter and shoot two women, one of whom was interviewing him at the time.

The man believed they were both Work and Income staff members.

"It was incredibly loud, I could feel the air whoosh past my head," the man told the Guardian.

He followed the man outside.

"He must have broken the gun down because he put it in his back pack," the witness said.

A woman, also believed to be a staff member, ran out and shouted at them to call the police, before running into the nearby medical centre, the Guardian reported.

They said the man's bike had been chained up on a street corner.

He headed east on Moore Street, leaving his bike helmet on the street. A postie at a business across the road heard the man screaming and swearing as he left the building.

A TOWN UNDER SIEGE

Throughout the day, residents reacted to the police hunt. Some were escorted to cars by friends - too scared to venture onto the street alone.

Carol Ward and her daughter Sarah said they knew one of the women killed in this morning's shooting.

"She's a very nice lady - she's very firm  in the job that she does. It's a loss to the welfare system," Carol Ward said.

"She's been in there many years."

The shooting brought back horrible memories of the murder of Kirsty Bentley.

"It's the helicopters," she said

"I'm actually quite shocked that it's happened here again," Sarah Ward said.

"It brought me to tears that some man could take it upon himself to take his revenge out on her. She's the type of person who you actually request to see."

Chalmers Ave resident Wayne Williams said this morning' events would rock the town to its core.

"He's homeless. Where did he get a shotgun from?" Williams said.

Some elderly residents on the street were too scared to come out of their houses.
He feared the gunman could emerge after dark and try to hide in people's sheds or garages.

"If they [the police] don't pick him up soon I don't think anyone along here will be sleeping tonight."

MAYOR 'WEAK AT THE KNEES'

Ashburton Distrcit Mayor Angus McKay  said he felt "weak at the knees" when he heard what had happened.

He was unaware yet if he knew the the people killed.

"Ashburton is not this kind of town," he said.

WORK AND INCOME OFFICES CLOSE

Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle said all Canterbury Work and Income offices, including Timaru, have been closed until further notice following this morning's shooting.

SUE BRADFORD SLAMMED FOR TWEET

Former MP Sue Bradford has been slammed for using the Ashburton shooting, which left two dead and a third seriously injured, as an excuse for political "point scoring".

She was immediately criticised with one person saying: "not something to be made into petty point scoring Sue. Especially when we don't know the circumstances."

- The Press

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