24 Nov 2009

Police rule out gang involvement in principal's death

10:16 pm on 24 November 2009

The police officer leading the investigation into the death of Rotorua principal Hawea Vercoe says he doesn't believe there was any gang involvement.

Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Standen says he's firmly dismissing such rumours, which have been circulating in Whakatane and eastern Bay of Plenty.

He says he wants to reassure the public he has no concerns regarding any possibility of gang connections to Mr Vercoe's death on Sunday.

The police say it is a tragic case of a simple night out for two individuals that went terribly wrong.

Body taken to his school

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Vercoe's body was returned to his school, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Rotoiti. Hundreds turned out to pay their respects to the 36-year-old, who died after an incident outside a Whakatane bar on Saturday night.

Interim post-mortem results show he died from a fatal brain injury, but it is not yet clear whether that was caused by a punch or a fall.

Preparations are being made for the body to lie at Tu Teao marae in Te Teko near Edgecumbe ahead of Thursday's funeral service.

Isaiah Tai, 21, of Opotiki has been charged with Mr Vercoe's murder and remanded in custody until 9 December. There were angry scenes when he appeared in the Whakatane District Court on Monday, and people in the public gallery were kept apart by the police and court security staff.