Slain pawn shop worker helped flood victims

Flooded farmland in the far north after a storm battered the top of the North Island. Photo: NZ...
Flooded farmland in the far north after a storm battered the top of the North Island. Photo: NZ Herald/Dean Purcell
One of the men killed in a pawn shop in south Auckland on Saturday had recently returned from helping flood victims in Northland, a witness says.

A number of people laid flowers outside the Ezy Cash loan store on Great South Rd in Takanini yesterday, where police were still examining the scene.

Nichola Popata laid a flower made from flax at a makeshift tribute site to the two men, who she described as "beautiful" and very friendly.

"I just wanted to come and pay my respects to Paul Matthews and Paul Fanning, to just share the love with their whanau and let them know we're thinking about them at this time," she said.

She had been "shattered" to hear of their deaths, she said, particularly as she had been in the store on Friday, the day before the deaths.

"I was just here on Friday doing some paperwork with them, they were comfortable, easy to talk to," she said. "We just shared stories."

Mr Matthews told her how he had recently returned from a 13-hour round trip to Northland, where he was helping his family who had been trapped by last week's flooding. He had used his four-wheel drive to create a clearing, and "everybody else was able to follow him in a convoy coming out the back of Dargaville roads," she said.

Ms Popata said she would remember Mr Fanning as a happy man.

"[He] always stands there and laughs and giggles and says, 'Oh that's not my job, go see Paul'."

She was "quite sad to hear what had happened".

Both men were "big, stocky guys", and she had been surprised to hear they had been killed in the store.

Other store workers in the area, who did not want to be named, described the men as "fantastic" and "great guys", who were well liked in the community.

Many were still in shock after the incident, questioning why it had happened.

Two forensic tents were erected yesterday outside the shop, which was cordoned off.

The 25-year-old man accused of murdering the men has had his name suppression extended.

He appeared in Papakura District Court yesterday charged with the murder of the store's owner Mr Fanning, 69, and his employee Mr Matthews, 47.

The accused was arrested in Huntly on Saturday night. A woman, who was seen leaving the premises with him, was being treated as a witness, police said at the weekend.

The accused stood in the dock yesterday, dressed in a dark T-shirt with a white logo and dark trousers, and was supported in court by his partner, parents and extended family members.

The public gallery of the court was packed to capacity with family members of both the accused and the victims.

Many were upset, and wiped tears from their eyes. Others stood hugging each other in support.

During the sitting one woman shouted at the double-murder accused, calling him "scum".

Duty lawyer Kersie Khambatta argued that the accused should be granted name suppression to protect his young family.

He has two young children - a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter - with his partner.

Mr Khambatta said the children, and the accused's younger sister who was still at school, would be subject to "jeers" and harassment from their classmates if his name was published.

There was also a fear that other family members would be identified by association and would be put "at risk".

"They say that people out there are very angry and non-suppression of details mean that they would be in danger," Mr Khambatta said.

The accused was granted interim name suppression by Justice of the Peace Tony Charman until 4pm yesterday. However, the accused appealed the interim decision and took it to the High Court.

Justice John Faire extended name suppression until the man's next court appearance in August. He was remanded in custody.

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