29 Sep 2008

Auckland stabbing inquiry seeks taxi driver's information

5:03 pm on 29 September 2008

Auckland police investigating the killing of Austin Hemmings, who was stabbed to death as he tried to help an an assault victim, are hoping a taxi driver could have some crucial information.

Mr Hemmings was attacked in Mills Lane at 5.30pm on Thursday while trying to help a woman who had been assaulted.

Police are looking for a taxi driver who picked up a fare about that time in the area, and took the person to Mangere or the Mangere Bridge area of Manukau.

Detective Senior Sergeant Gerry Whitley says the search is continuing for the knife believed to have been used in the attack.

A 45-year-old man appeared in Auckland District Court on Friday charged with assaulting the woman Mr Hemmings went to help.

The name of the accused is suppressed. Police say he will face further charges when he appears in court again in October.

Hemmings acted on instinct - brother

Mr Hemmings' brother, Craig, says he was a fantastic father and husband who loved his family and God.

Craig Hemmings says his brother was a man of strong moral fibre, and would have acted on his instincts.

"Austin ... he had no hesitation in going in to help, that's who he is. He wouldn't have gone in guns blazing or anything like that; he would have just walked over to the lady and said: 'Look, can I help you at all', and things obviously went bad from there."

Craig Hemmings says the family is devastated but also extremely proud of his brother's actions, as they are an example to everyone that good people can make a difference in the world.

Mr Hemmings was the Auckland branch manager for the insurance company NZI. The head of the company, Karl Armstrong, said he was extremely capable and an inspirational leader who was devoted to his family and had strong Christian values.

Mr Armstrong says it is no surprise that Mr Hemmings went to the aid of someone in difficulty - he would have done so without thinking or hesitating, and he will be sorely missed. Staff at the company have been receiving counselling.

The funeral is expected to be held on Wednesday at the family's Anglican church in Devonport.