Late wife's benefit claimed

A Hamilton man has been ordered to repay almost $12,000 in Work and Income benefit payments he took from his dead wife's account.

Renata Murray Joseph Tikiku, 51, was yesterday sentenced in the Hamilton District Court to four months' community detention on 11 charges of using a document.

Tikiku's wife, Melody Hodder, also known as Melody Tikiku, was granted an invalid's benefit and disability allowance from March 26, 2010.

As a result of its inquiries, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) discovered Ms Hodder died on March 3, 2011.

However, money continued to be taken from her account by Tikiku in sums as large as $700 at a time.

Lawyer Kay Hoult said Tikiku went into depression following her death, drinking a large amount of alcohol, in what she described as a "tragic situation".

In an excerpt from a letter penned to sentencing Judge David Ruth, Ms Hoult said, "He puts his hand up and says he just started drinking and couldn't stop. ‘I couldn't go on with my life, I didn't do anything'."

She said credit could be given to Tikiku for not asking for a funeral ex- penses to which he would have been entitled.

But MSD solicitor Carolyn Rameil disputed that, stating that if Tikiku did apply for funeral expenses they would have worked out that his wife had died and been able to cease payments.

Judge Ruth agreed and said Tikiku had similar matters in his past, including a warning from MSD.