21 Mar 2013

Blue four-wheel-drive key to fatal shooting

5:28 am on 21 March 2013

A blue four-wheel-drive, possibly a Jeep Cherokee, is the main focus of a police investigation into the fatal shooting of a roadworker on a rural road in south Waikato.

Police have named the man who was killed as George Charles Taiaroa, 67, of Hamilton.

They say it appears he was shot while directing traffic at a road diversion on Tram Road in the Kinleith Forest area just after 3pm on Tuesday.

Detective Inspector Mark Loper says Mr Taiaroa was working at the northern end of a bridge and indicated to a four-wheel-drive vehicle that it should stop to let a logging truck cross from the opposite direction.

He says after the truck had cleared the bridge its driver saw Mr Taiaroa fall to the ground, while the four-wheel-drive headed towards Tirohanga Road.

An Atiamuri resident says Tram Road is mainly used by logging trucks but also as a detour by people driving to Te Kuiti.

Local community 'holds key' to inquiry

Police say the four-wheel-drive is of particular interest and they are asking anyone who saw any vehicle speeding or driving erratically in the Atiamuri area on Tuesday afternoon to contact them immediately.

"We believe that the community here holds the key to this inquiry," Mr Loper says, adding that it's too early to speculate about the motive for the shooting.

Mr Taiaroa's whanau have put out a statement in both English and Maori saying he was a loving husband, father and grandfather, and thanking people for the overwhelming support they have received.

He worked for HEB Construction, and chief executive Derrick Adams says staff are absolutely devastated. He says Mr Taiaroa was a well-loved member of staff who had been with the company for 14 years.

Mr Adams says support will be offered to staff before the site where the shooting occurred is reopened after a blessing on Thursday.

Mr Taiaroa's body has been taken to Auckland for a post-mortem.