Deaths 'not connected': 3 Southland homicides in 6 weeks

Invercargill City representatives met with Southland's top cop this afternoon following the launch of the third homicide investigation in region in less than six weeks.

Southland area commander Inspector Mike Bowman met with mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt and deputy mayor Toni Biddle at the Invercargill City Council today after a body was located at an address on Oreti St, Invercargill on Sunday evening.

The incident followed two other homicide investigations in the city within the past two months, plus one attempted murder.

  • The first homicide investigation began on October 30 when a youth was charged with the murder of a nine-year-old boy in the small Southland town of Otautau.
  • This was then followed by an incident on November 17 where police discovered the body of a 22-year-old woman at the Bavarian Motel in Waikiwi. A 31-year-old man was charged with the murder in relation to the incident and is still before the courts.
  • In Invercargill on November 9, 29-year-old Joel Maikara Amohanga allegedly shot at Kane Harris Joseph Johnston-Walters in Brown St, Strathern, and was charged with attempted murder. The incident was also still before he courts.

Insp Bowman said the meeting was an opportunity to reassure the council there was no link between the incidents.

"Councillors wanted clarity on whether there was a link that could have indicated the incidents were part of a bigger picture.

"We were able to say there wasn't and quickly alleviate that worry. All three incidents were isolated and in all the cases, the people actually knew each other.''

The community wanted and needed to hear they were not connected, he said.

"They have to trust police have it under control, it's also about public reassurance around safety.''

The efficiency of the arrests made in relation to the incidents was a testament to police's ability to keep the public safe, he said.

In a joint statement from the mayor and deputy mayor, the need to address the increase in crimes with police was brought up at a recent mayoral forum, they said.

The driver for the meeting was to ''better understand'' what police were seeing in the region and what community leaders could do to offer support.

''Having spoken with Insp Mike Bowman today, we are reassured that police are working incredibly hard to support our wider community, and especially those directly affected by these tragedies.

''Insp Bowman informed us that these matters appear to be random offending which are not connected in any way, and that police were able to quickly apprehend the individuals believed to be involved.''

They encouraged the community to continue to look out for each other and report any incidents of concern to police.

''We are extremely fortunate in many ways that Invercargill and the wider Southland community is strong, and incredibly connected. However, this does mean that incidents like these affect us all.

''We encourage anyone affected to reach out and check in with their friends, family, neighbours, and make sure they’re okay.''

A  30-year-old Invercargill man, who had interim name suppression, was charged with murder in relation to the incident and appeared in Invercargill District Court yesterday.

He was remanded in custody until his next court appearance on January 21.