NZ police speak to 'person of interest' after two kids found dead
Two children under five are dead as police carry out a homicide investigation in a small town on New Zealand's North Island.
Police were called to Peter Snell Road after an incident at a property in the Northland town of Ruakākā on Monday morning.
"Northland Police have launched a double homicide investigation in Ruakākā this morning," Detective Inspector Bridget Doell said in a statement.
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"Sadly, we can confirm two people have been located deceased at an address."
Stuff understands those dead are an infant, aged one, and a four-year-old.
Stuff also understands police were called to the property this morning by a woman.
The children were dead when police arrived.
Police were tightlipped with details but said they were "speaking with a person of interest".
"While we appreciate the wider interest in what has occurred, police aren't in a position to release any further details at this stage," Doell said.
"Our investigation is still in the early stages and we are currently speaking with a person as part of enquiries," police said.
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"News of this incident will come as a shock to the community, and we can reassure them we are not currently seeking anyone else in relation to this incident."
Ruakākā is a beachside town of about 2500, according to the 2020 census, in the Bream Bay area, roughly 100 kilometres north of Auckland.
A Stuff reporter at the scene on Monday morning said a police car was blocking the road at the corner of Tamingi Street and Peter Snell Road, not far from the local ambulance station.
Down the street, police tape was wound around some palm trees, blocking off properties where a blue police tent had been set up and people were standing.
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Jeff Murray of Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities confirmed the incident had happened at one of the government agency's homes in Ruakākā.
"(We were) very sad to learn this morning of what police are describing as a sudden death incident at one of our properties," Murray said.
Thoughts were with the whānau and with the small community who will all feel the impact of the tragedy, he said.
"We will be checking in with our customers in the area to see what support they may need."
Local pharmacist Warren Green said an incident like this was something people read about, but didn't expect to happen in their own community.
"It's quite a shock to think that it happens somewhere like this," Green said.
It's likely he would know some of the people involved, or who attended the scene as a first responder, Green said.
Local resident Jed Smith said the incident would have a very negative impact on the community.
"It couldn't get any worse – it's horrible," he said.
Bream Bay College principal Wayne Buckland said the school was aware of a significant incident that had happened close by.
"We will continue to monitor the situation and provide support as and when needed."
Police told the school there were no indications of any safety issues for students, he said.
The school was open as normal on Monday.
"We have support systems in place for any of our students who are affected by it," Buckland said.
Another school, One Tree Point, acknowledged the situation on social media on Monday morning, saying support was available for its students.
"We are aware of the sad loss of two children in Ruakākā this morning. Our sincere aroha and thoughts are with the whānau and everyone concerned," a staff member posted.
"We have support systems in place for any of our tamariki who need it. Please reach out if you have any concerns."
Forensics teams were investigating during the day, but they had left by about 5.30pm and a scene guard was at the property.
Fire and Emergency's Josh Pennefather said they attended a medical event in Ruakākā on Monday morning.
One fire truck attended to assist an ambulance crew, he said.
A St John spokesperson said the organisation was notified of an incident at a private residential address.
Instances where multiple children are killed in homicidal circumstances are very rare in New Zealand.
The most recent case was in 2021 when Lauren Dickason allegedly murdered her three daughters in Timaru.
She is due to stand trial in July.
According to the Homicide Report, an average of nine children are killed in New Zealand each year — every eighth homicide victim.
At least 18 people have died in suspicious or homicidal circumstances in New Zealand so far in 2023.
At the same time last year there had been 29 suspected homicides.
Last year's toll closed at 82.
On average there are 68 homicides in New Zealand each year.
The rate of 1.3 homicides per 100,000 people is above the OECD median of 0.95 per 100,000.
The Homicide Report's data is provisional and may change depending on the outcome of investigations and court cases.
This article initially appeared on Stuff and is republished here with permission.