New Zealand's longest-serving police officer saw his wife and
best mate drown the day before his daughter's wedding in
Yesterday, instead of walking daughter Vanessa up the aisle,
Chief Inspector John Palmer was consoling her as they grieved
for Judith Lorraine Palmer, known as Judy.
Mrs Palmer, 62, had been swimming in a lagoon at Vaimaanga
when she got into trouble on Wednesday. Robert Groves, a
close family friend and neighbour, tried to help but both
Mr Palmer was at the lagoon and is said to be devastated. He
and Mrs Palmer had been married for 42 years and the couple
had been planning the trip to the Cook Islands, where Vanessa
and her partner Rhys Woodger live, for months.
He was too upset to speak to the New Zealand Herald last
night, but issued a statement through a family spokesman.
"He doesn't want to answer any questions about this tragedy,"
Bob Palmer said. "He just wants to basically acknowledge the
support extended over here. John, Vanessa and his family are
devastated by the tragic events which resulted in the loss of
a loving wife, mother and sister.
"John and his family have been overwhelmed by the support and
love extended them by the greater New Zealand police family.
Our sincere thanks also go to the New Zealand High
Commissioner and his team at Rarotonga for their support.
"The support from the Rarotongan community and John and
Vanessa's friends and family has been outstanding and is a
great comfort to us all as we deal with this tragedy."
The wedding was postponed. It is expected the bodies will be
brought back to Auckland for funeral services.
It is understood Mr Groves' wife, Mary, is also in Rarotonga.
Locals recovered the bodies from the lagoon, near where the
group were staying for the wedding, about an hour after the
Mr Palmer has been a police officer for almost 47 years,
mostly in Auckland. He is the only remaining chief inspector
in New Zealand.
Auckland City district commander Superintendent Mike Clement
said the double tragedy had hit Mr Palmer and his wider
"We are all reeling from the news and can only imagine the
magnitude of the devastation John, his family and the Groves
family are feeling," Mr Clement said.
"I know personally that the trip to Rarotonga for Vanessa's
wedding was to be the highlight of the year for John and Judy
and that much planning and anticipation surrounded it.
"I and Commissioner Peter Marshall have spoken with John on
several occasions in the past 24 hours and have offered our
absolute support and assistance to help him, his daughter and
their friends through this very distressing time."
- Anna Leask of the New Zealand Herald