Murder charge in Kim Richmond case rattles small community

A lone figure watches as Richmond's ute emerges from the lake.

A lone figure watches as Richmond's ute emerges from the lake.

It is roughly a 20 minute drive from Kim Richmond's house in Arohena to where her body was found in Lake Arapuni.

The rural South Waikato road is mixed with windy, unmarked paths and scenic, flat landscapes.

On Tuesday, a 45-year-old man was charged with Richmond's murder and appeared in the Hamilton District Court. He has interim name suppression.

A man was charged with the murder of Waikato woman Kim Richmond, after her body was found in Arapuni Lake.

A man was charged with the murder of Waikato woman Kim Richmond, after her body was found in Arapuni Lake.

The same day, family and friends gathered at the Alexandra House Chapel in Te Awamutu, to farewell the mother of three.

Man charged with murder over Kim Richmond's death appears in court
Body in ute identified as Kim Richmond
Missing woman Kim Richmond's bank cards found on roadside

The police dive squad began searching the lake again last week, from Arapuni Landing. 

Six metres under water, Richmond and her Ford Ranger were found.

A narrow path to the landing descends past houses with idyllic views, to the opening of the lake.

Arapuni Lake Road resident, Sally Drake's home overlooks the lake.

She said she was home on the night Richmond was said to have disappeared.

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"It's really busy during the summer, with boaties and such. But during the winter, only residents drive down the gravel road.

"We get one or two campers, but the road comes right past our house, and I don't remember hearing anything on the night she [Richmond] disappeared."

Drake said the lake used to be a gorge until it was filled with water.

"After the boat ramp, it drops off and it gets pretty deep, even to the side of the ramp where the truck was found.

"It's murky and really deep down there, they must be some talented divers."

Drake, who works from home as a suicide prevention officer, said she was home at the time divers found the truck. 

"Police never approached us, we weren't sure what was going on.

"I saw the truck being pulled up from the lake and then realised what was happening."

A farmer who lived near Richmond, and who did not want to be named, said he was good friends with her.

"People are happy that they have found her," he said.

But said the murder charge came as a shock.

Richmond's Arohena home falls within the Otorohanga District.

Mayor Max Baxter expressed his condolences to Richmond's family and friends on behalf of council.

"I'm glad she was found so family and friends can grieve, and that someone has been arrested," he said.

"It's all moved pretty quickly over the last week, so I hope the family get answers and can put the gossipers to rest."

Police said Richmond was last seen in her home on the early hours of July 31, 2016.

There were no reported sightings of her since her disappearance. 

Her bank cards were found on the roadside in the central North Island a few months later. Her bank accounts and phone went untouched.

The charged man is remanded in custody until his next appearance in the High Court at Hamilton, in July. 

The man's lawyer, Thomas Sutcliffe, asked for interim name suppression until his client's next appearance.

He said some of his client's family members were not aware of the charge.

Judge Louis Bidois granted interim suppression and said it was unlikely the man would get permanent suppression.

 - Stuff

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