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Ōtorohanga homicide: Road rage was cause of Waikato axe attack, police say

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Police say road rage appears to have prompted a gruesome axe attack in a Waikato town Saturday evening that has resulted in the death of a 34 year-old Te Kuiti man.

No arrests have yet been made but police say they have now located two vehicles of interest and they do not believe the groups were known to each other prior to the incident.

Police were called to one of Ōtorohanga’s main streets around 6.30pm.

A witness told the Herald he saw two patched gang members hit the man with an axe, causing him to collapse, as families looked on in horror.

“This was an incredibly violent attack in a very public place, and we want to let our Ōtorohanga community know we’re clearly focused on identifying and locating those involved,” Waikato police Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley said in a statement Sunday afternoon.

Police have not yet revealed the man’s identity, adding that they expect to do so after a post-mortem examination on Monday.

A person who knew the man but asked not to be identified described him as a good, hard-working person.

“He had his own business and was a father and left kids behind and a wife,” the person told the Herald. “He was a very positive role model in the neighbourhood.”

A witness who saw the attack last night said he was driving down Maniapoto St and pulled over as he noticed a fight unfolding outside the Mobil service station.

“I was just driving down and there was a scuffle. It’s a pretty quiet town too which really sucks but there was a scuffle so I kind of slowed down,” the witness said.

“It was these two gang members and they were attacking this [man] with an axe. They hit him on the head and it just dropped him cold and they just took off. Pretty shocking really.”

The witness told the Herald that the gang members fled in a white Rodeo ute.

A friend of the victim was also on the scene as the man in his 30s was attacked.

“He was with his mate, he had a motocross bike on the back [of their vehicle], they looked like they had just been out for the weekend sort of thing,” the witness said

“He didn’t get involved, he stepped back. They had an axe so I don’t really blame him. They had their patches on and everything. Just your classic sort of thug.”

The witness said he then got out of his car to assist the badly injured man who he says was wearing high-vis clothing and didn’t look like a gang member.

“I got out and ran back down and there was a young family there and a couple of other people,” the witness said.

“I stopped actually and tried to get that guy on his side. Get him in the recovery position,” the witness said.

“There was a fair bit of blood [but] it actually didn’t look that bad. I sort of thought he’d bounce back.

“I thought he was knocked out, I thought he’d come back.”

Police were called to Maniapoto St around 6:30pm to reports of a large group of people fighting.

The witness said within about five minutes of the attack numerous carloads of people had turned up who seemed to know the man and were getting very angry.

“There were a few people around and then it all sort of kicked off,” the witness said.

“It looked like all his family and all his mates were coming down and they were spewing, they were smashing **** on the ground and yelling and I thought I’m just going to get out of here,” the witness said.

“People knew him in the area I think a phone call got put out. Within five minutes like 10 carloads of people had pulled up.”

The witness said the incident did not reflect the town of Ōtorohanga.

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