Sockburn stabbing: Anger grows over unanswered questions

Laisa Maraia Tunidau has been named as the victim in Saturday's fatal stabbing in Christchurch....
Laisa Maraia Tunidau has been named as the victim in Saturday's fatal stabbing in Christchurch. Image: NZ Herald
Friends and family of a Christchurch mother-of-four fatally stabbed outside her home in a random knife attack are becoming increasingly desperate for answers as grief and shock turns to anger.

A 37-year-old man has been charged with the murder of mother-of-four Laisa Waka Tunidau and remanded in custody.

A judge at the Christchurch District Court yesterday ordered reports to assess the man's mental health.

The New Zealand Herald understands that he had been receiving mental health care from Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB).

But the CDHB has repeatedly refused to answer questions from the Herald over the last three days.

Tunidau, a cleaner in her 50s, had caught the bus home from work and was metres from her house on Cheyenne St, in the suburb of Sockburn, when she was attacked about 4.20pm on Saturday.

Tunidau's 11-year-old son has been left "traumatised" after watching emergency services try to save a woman outside his family home, not then knowing it was his mother.

The small and tight-knit community is rallying around the father and son. They haven't returned home yet but have been given a safe place to stay.

A Givealittle page launched yesterday to support the family has already raised more than $30,000.

But frustrations are mounting over unanswered questions around how the shocking attack was able to happen.

"There is anger within the community at the moment over whether the guy had mental illness, and questions why he was out in the first place and took a mother and a wife's life," said Malakai Waqasokolala, president of the Canterbury Fijian Community.

"We're asking questions on why. The community and family definitely need an answer from those who are in charge of those things, to give them closure in a way. There is anger hanging around within the community."

Waqasokolala is not aware of anyone from the CDHB speaking with anyone within the community.

"We are hoping that in the next few days we could at least get something so that we could piece together what happened and get closure for losing Laisa," he said.

Fijian community leader and parish member Una Tikoi earlier said the fatal stabbing has devastated family and friends.

"The community is not happy ... the community is angry for our beloved friend and mother whose life has been taken away recklessly," Tikoi said.

People are asking why the man was allowed to be in the community when he was a "sick man", Tikoi said.

Funeral plans are still being finalised but it's likely that Tunidau will be returned to Fiji to be farewell with loved ones.

She has four children, with three of them living back in her homeland.

Waqasokolala, who knew the family well and often stayed at their Sockburn home, rushed to Cheyenne St on Saturday after the fatal assault.

He said grieving husband Nemani Tunidau was distraught but trying to stay strong for his children.

"He lost a wife, his loved one," Waqasokolala said.

"Only time will heal and that with God's blessing and God's permission he will come through. He is trying to be a very strong and supportive father figure for his son at the moment."

Waqasokolala is grateful for the support of the wider Christchurch community, with stories of workmates showing up with flowers and offering sincere condolences.

"That's pretty cool eh, and that's what Christchurch is known for," he said.

Just before the accused appeared in court, Tunidau's adult daughter in Fiji spoke of her heartbreak at losing her beloved mother.

"I can't begin to express how much I will miss you. There is a huge hole in my heart and I don't know how I'm going to cope. I will always be thinking of you, mum."

The man accused of stabbing Tunidau to death was granted interim name suppression during a brief appearance from custody at Christchurch District Court yesterday.

He will appear at the High Court in Christchurch on July 15 - and a judge has called for a report under Section 38 of the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003 to assess his fitness to stand trial.

Health Minister Andrew Little's office has also declined to comment.

Christchurch residents' hearts went out to the family and friends of Tunidau who was "killed in such a senseless, violent attack", the city's mayor Lianne Dalziel said.

"A crime of this nature will have a devastating impact on the community as well, and they too will want answers as to how and why this happened."

Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price said the alleged murder was "a horrific, traumatic and random attack on an innocent person who was simply making her way home from work".

The traumatic, senseless act would have a huge impact on the community as a whole and right across New Zealand, he said.

"No one deserves this," Price said.

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