Murder victim 'loved by everybody'

RACHEL YOUNG, BLAIR ENSOR AND DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 12:34 22/07/2013

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A man accused of killing a woman at a council housing complex in Spreydon has been remanded in custody.

Colin Albert Hoani, 59, appeared in the Christchurch District Court today charged with the murder and assault of Valmai Jean McFie, 67, his neighbour.

McFie's body was found by a resident lying outside on the grass in Macgibbon Pl about 6.30pm on Saturday.

At the request of defence counsel Craig Ruane, Hoani was remanded in custody to August 9. He entered no plea.

Ruane signalled a possible issue with Hoani's fitness to plead but said a psychiatric nurse at the Court House had not yet made any progress in interviewing him.

He said that issue might have to be reviewed before Hoani's next appearance.

The police opposed bail and no application was made.

Judge Gary MacAskill remanded Hoani in custody, and as he was being taken back to the cells, the man began shouting: "Where am I being remanded to?"

He has been remanded to prison in the meantime.

Donna Austin broke down in tears as she paid tribute to McFie - a friend of about 35 years.

''It's a real shock. I can't believe it.

''Everything that came out of her mouth made you laugh. She was just fun. She was loved by everybody.

''I think the council has to be accountable for something.''

McFie's best friend, Andrea Brears, said she was shocked to learn of the alleged murder.

''It's still very surreal - unbelievable.''

Brears, 54, from Addington, said she met McFie about eight years ago through a mutual friend.

She said complaints - written and verbal - about problems at the flats had been made to Christchurch City Council. Police had also been contacted, but said there was little they could do. Police gave McFie a direct number for her to phone if problems ever escalated.

McFie moved to New Zealand about 50 years ago. She had two sisters and a brother in Australia, but no family in Christchurch.

She had lived in the Spreydon complex more than five years. She worked for Sonoco, a packaging company in Hornby, before retiring two years ago.

Brears said her friend liked to read, do crosswords and go for walks.

''She did things pretty simply. She wasn't an extravagant person.

''She loved people. She didn't have a violent bone in her body.

''It's certainly not something that you would ever have thought would happen.''

The complex houses more than 40 single-bedroom units rented mostly to pensioners and beneficiaries.

Residents spoken to by The Press yesterday said they had safety concerns, even before the woman's death.

Macgibbon Pl resident David Walker, who lives opposite the dead woman's flat, described his neighbour's death as an "absolute tragedy".

Walker said complaints about tenant behaviour had been made to the complex housing manager.

A man was evicted from the complex after several residents spent more than a year of complaining to the council that he had been making threats, he said.

It appeared people with known issues were not being properly monitored, which made other residents anxious, Walker said.

"We didn't expect it to escalate to this. It's an absolute tragedy."

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His views were echoed by several of the complex's residents, who said there were a few "unsavoury" characters in the area.

On Saturday night, Walker heard arguing near the complex car park.

He and three other residents, who all lived close to the woman's unit, were taken to the police station to give a statement then put into a motel for the night.

"We were neighbourly friends and we would talk . . . she was very easy to get along with. It's all so tragic."

Close friend Cheryl Waghorn said McFie was originally from Australia, was single and had no children.

"She was just a happy-go-lucky lady. She wouldn't have hurt a fly and she had a golden smile," she said.

Waghorn, who had known the woman for more than 20 years, said her friend had complained to her several times about a neighbour's behaviour.

Leanne Adams, who lives in the complex, said it was well known McFie and the man did not get along. She had previously heard yelling and screaming between the pair.

Detective Senior Sergeant Brian Archer said police inquiries included looking into who lived in the complex, the dynamics and whether police had been called there any other time.

A Christchurch City Council spokeswoman would not comment as it was a police matter.

Archer would not comment on what injuries the woman had sustained or whether there was a weapon involved. A post-mortem was conducted yesterday.

- The Press

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