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Family seeking closure after fatal hit-and-run

Almost a year after a late-night walk turned to tragedy, questions about the death of Lawziah Karaitiana remain. Until they’re answered, neither his family nor police can move on. MARY ARGUE reports on the stalled hit-and-run investigation.

On May 7, it will be one year since Lawziah Karaitiana lost his life on the Masterton-Castlepoint Rd.

The 20-year-old was found unresponsive in the early hours of that Saturday morning and assumed to be the victim of a suspected hit-and-run.

Despite an extensive investigation, and multiple appeals for information, police and Karaitiana’s family are no closer to understanding what happened.

Ronald Karaitiana said he fears his nephew’s death would be another unresolved trauma for a family that’s no stranger to tragedy.

“This isn’t the only case, it’s not a new rodeo for our family, but it is a heartbreak of another kind.

“We will never know what happened unless people give information to the police.

“Nonetheless, we don’t have a grandson, a nephew, a potential husband with us. That is the saddest part.”

The most recent appeal involved a letter drop in every letterbox east of Tinui – pleading for the driver to come forward.

Detective Pete Donaldson said without new information, there can be no closure.

“Police are appealing to the driver to come forward so the circumstances can be fully understood and to provide closure to the family.”

Donaldson said Karaitiana was standing on the Masterton-Castlepoint Rd near Mclaughlin Dr when he was struck by an unknown motor vehicle that was travelling east.

“We have identified the vehicles that travelled east of Tinui at the time we believe the accident happened.

“Several vehicles have been forensically examined and excluded.”

He said there was nothing at this stage of the investigation to suggest it was malicious, but until police could speak to the person responsible “we can’t rule it out”.

“Police believe that the vehicle responsible has travelled from within the Tinui, Whakataki, Mataikona, and Castlepoint area.”

A ‘Ten 7 Aotearoa’ episode a few weeks after Karaitiana’s death detailed his movements in the hours leading up to a resident finding him at 4.20am.

After a private gathering in Mataikona, Karaitiana and his long-term partner Jenna Mullen returned home at 1.30am when Karaitiana became upset and went for a walk to cool off.

“We waited up for him,” Mullen said, “Nothing, then they [the police] came in and just looked at us. We just knew.”

Ronald Karaitiana said Mullen and her family had been at the centre of a lot of strife and anguish in the months since.

“At the time, the best we could do was concentrate our efforts on him [Lawziah].

“Rather than it being marred by thoughts of a killer in our community.

“But it’s almost 12 months on, and we haven’t moved on.”

Ronald conceded accidents happen but said the lack of information in such a tight-knit community was “mind-blowing”.

In a direct appeal to the person responsible, he urged them to come forward.

“If this is you, come clean. Whoever did this, do the right thing.

“Any information leading to answers around Lawziah’s death will help bring closure.

“The family has done their best to put peace in their hearts.

“It’s grief that will stay with us forever but, as devastating as it is, there is a chance for restorative justice.”

    If you have any information that could assist with the inquiry, please contact Masterton Police via 105 or crime stoppers on 0800 555 111 and quote Operation Sony and file number 220507/5834.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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