20 Jan 2016

Te Atatu mourners fear for safety

11:27 am on 20 January 2016

Mourners who took to the streets for a solemn and emotional walk in Te Atatu, Auckland last night have told of how they still fear for their safety.

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Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

More than 300 people came together to remember Cun Xiu Tian, the woman found dead in her home after a brutal daylight bashing.

The night started at the Te Atatu Baptist Church where a candlelight vigil was held.

The sheer number of people who came to light candles was a heartwarming sight for church leader Des Marett.

"Well this could have been your mother that you'd left at home... and you come home and she's no longer with us.

"And in a terrible way, not just died naturally, but really bashed up," he said.

It did not take long for it to be made clear how worried locals in Te Atatu still are.

Elissa Fisher, who lives on the other side of the road into the peninsula, said she has locked her doors and windows more since the killing.

"In terms of how this has affected me I think it's shocking.

"It's devastating that we don't even know who it is and it could happen to any old one of us.

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More than 300 mourners joined the walk. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

"I walk my dog all the time and I've found myself watching out now and being anxious all of the time," she told RNZ.

Inside the church was full and bustling, and alongside the small candles being slowly lit, people prayed and paused to remember their lost neighbour.

A local man, Wayne Taleafoa, called Ms Tian's death a tragedy.

"It's a shock because it's not the sort of thing that happens too often around here, the fact that this woman was a 69-year-old woman on her own," he said.

Mr Taleafoa said it was important for residents to come together and show solidarity.

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Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

This was something another local Tania Scurr echoed.

"We came here to pay our respects to the family and just to show everyone, especially the other communities, that our community is really close and really strong.

"We care for everyone like they are our family, that's why we're here," she said.

As she was talking, an announcement of a moment's silence was made. People stood and bowed their heads, and the Lord's Prayer was then recited.

Two police officers then led the way out of the church, across the courtyard, and onto the street heading toward Ms Tian's home.

A long line formed, and people took each footstep in silence which was interrupted only by the barking of dogs behind fences.

Eventually, the group arrived at Ms Tian's home - her driveway was still cordoned off and a police car still guarded the scene.

One by one the young and the old placed the flowers they brought and eventually eventually they grew into a small mountain symbolising a neighbourhood's grief.

David Spackman, the church leader who helped organise the vigil, said he was not expecting such a large crowd.

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Photo: RNZ/Kim Baker Wilson

"I think they're definitely feeling sadness, some people are probably feeling quite afraid.

"I know that on social media some people had put on they were worried that if they came that no one would be home and there's opportunity for people to come and break into homes.

"I saw a couple of people crying... it was very moving, I think, and it was amazing because nothing needed to be said, it was just what it was," Mr Spackman said.

The hunt for Ms Tian's killer is now in its sixth day.

The police yesterday appealed for sightings of a man in his 20s, dressed in a green and white tracksuit and white baseball cap.

Maryanne Paerau - a neighbour of Ms Tian's - told RNZ she saw a man fitting that description on the day Mrs Tian was killed.

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Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson