2 Sep 2014

80 police officers still in Ashburton

7:09 pm on 2 September 2014

About 80 police officers remain in Ashburton investigating yesterday's shooting in which two women died and another was seriously injured.

The names of the women who were shot have been released. Peggy Noble and Leigh Cleveland died, while Lindy Curtis was seriously injured.

Watch Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald address the media in Ashburton this morning

The women were shot by a man who walked into the town's Work and Income office about 10am yesterday.

Friends and family of the deceased gathered in Ashburton this morning.

Friends and family of the deceased gathered in Ashburton this morning. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

He then fled on a bike, sparking a massive, day-long manhunt before being found on a rural property just outside Ashburton about 5.30pm.

Russell John Tully has appeared in the Christchurch District Court charged with two counts of murder and one of attempted murder. The police said he did not have a firearms licence.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald said Mr Tully, who had a sawn-off shotgun, did not have a firearms licence.

Mr Fitzgerald would not comment on how Mr Tully obtained his weapon nor if the police had found it.

Mr Tully did not plea in court this morning, and was remanded in custody to reappear on 23 September.

Victim Support working with families

Victim Support staff have been working with close family of the two women killed and the other who's been injured.

Its chief executive Kevin Soh said the Ashburton community was in shock - and the agency's working elsewhere as well.

He said Victim Support staff has also been attending to the family of those who died some of whom live in other regions.

Victim a "lovely lady"

A friend of Peggy Noble's recalls fond memories of playing bowls and winning big in casinos.

Noeline Woods told Checkpoint that Peggy Noble was a bowls' friend who helped her turn $50 into $2000 at a casino in Dunedin.

She said rather than banking the money, they hid the $2000 in a baby wipes box and left it on a duchess next to the bed in a house they were renting.

Noeline Woods said she and Peggy Noble figured nobody would want to steal baby wipes.

Ashburton Work and Income client Carol Ward said Ms Noble was a "lovely lady" who she had known for more than 15 years.

"She was a very, very nice woman. She will be missed by town, everybody, because she just knew everybody, everybody knew her, she knew the rules of the welfare. She was a lovely lady," Ms Ward said.

Ms Noble had remarked to Ms Ward only a few days ago that there had not been any trouble in the office for a long time.

Ms Ward said the police helicopters searching for the suspect yesterday had sparked memories of the 1998 hunt for 15-year-old Kirsty Bentley, who disappeared on New Year's Eve. Her body was found two weeks later, and no one has ever been charged with her murder.

"I just got into the feeling that (it's) those blasted helicopters again," she said.

"When Kirsty died, we had the big helicopters ... and that's all I could think about, was that we're reliving, police running around like they did when Kirsty died."

Members of the police forensics team leave the Ashburton Work and Income office, where three women were shot, two fatally.

The Ashburton Work and Income Office where the shootings occurred Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Safety sought at cordon

Rebecca Hopkinson sought safety next to the police cordon around the Work and Income office where the shootings took place during yesterday's manhunt, saying she felt unsafe being alone on her farm and had come into town to avoid danger.

"A lot of the people that I know in the town are angry and disgusted, totally disgusted with what's happened today. It's just ridiculous," Ms Hopkinson said.

"The people who work in there are lovely. We just hope that the one up in Christchurch is going to pull through. "How dare he. It's just disgusting."

The police cordon in Ashburton, at the scene of the shootings

The police cordon in Ashburton, at the scene of the shootings. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Jamie Dalzell runs Ashburton's Coronation Holiday Park in Ashburton, which sometimes provides temporary accommodation to beneficiaries.

He said John Tully stayed at his holiday park a few weeks ago for a short period.

"He stayed here for three nights, and Presbyterian Support paid for him, and then he was out.

"Then (Work and Income) paid for another five nights but he never showed up ever again, because he had to pay it out of his benefit, and he didn't want to pay any money."

Lake Hood subdivision resident Dave Crow said it was a relief an arrest was made before the day's end.

"Didn't particularly like it, it wouldn't have been very nice being here at night," he said.

"I think the cops have done a damned good job dragging him down, or the dogs did."

One question on the minds of many locals spoken to by Radio New Zealand was how a homeless man with no money could have possessed a firearm and ammunition.

Ashburton shooting suspect Russell John Tully's bike lies abandoned on the side of the road.

Ashburton shooting suspect Russell John Tully's bike lies abandoned on the side of the road. Photo: RNZ

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