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Vigil for slain dairy worker

Raw emotion spilled over on the forecourt of Masterton’s Town Hall as the region gathered to mourn the death of Janak Patel.
Close to 80 dairy owners and community members came together on Sunday evening to hold a candle-lit vigil for Patel – the 34-year-old slain while working at an Auckland dairy last week.
The newlywed was fatally stabbed when he confronted a robber outside Sandringham’s Rose Cottage Superette on Wednesday night.
Three men have been arrested in relation to Patel’s death and are facing charges, including aggravated robbery and murder.
Sunday’s vigil in Masterton was one of many planned nationwide to coincide with Patel’s funeral at 5pm.
Among the prayers were speeches from Kanu Jasmat, president of the Wairarapa Indian Association, community representative and Northend storeowner Mrudang Patel, and Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell
Mrudang Patel said the gathering was not simply a vigil, but also a protest.
Storeowners had erected signs on the front of their stores from Eketahuna to Featherston notifying customers of Sunday’s closure.
“We have decided to close the shop at 4.30pm. This is to show our respect, sympathy, support, unity, and protest after the horrific incident that took place at the dairy in Auckland.”
Mrudang Patel said Janak Patel’s death was the realisation of everyone’s worst-case scenario.
“It is not just about fear and anger. We personally feel like we are being punished.
“We are standing behind a shop for 12 hours a day serving the community and we deserve dignity and respect.
“It should not have happened. We would like the system to do something for us.”
Mrudang Patel said dairy, superette, and mini-mart owners worked hard, paid their taxes, and deserved to feel safe while at work.
However, the government had failed to curb the rise in ram raids and smash-and-grab robberies.
He said education was a good place to start.
“Something like this wouldn’t happen if we educated society and had young people doing work experience standing behind a counter, so they know what it is like.
“When the majority of society falls into that pool, things will change.”
Other storeowners said they were looking for better and more security, and called for a tougher stance on crime.
“Wairarapa dairies are not feeling safe right now. Usually, it’s winter that we worry about because it gets dark early.
“But this happened in summer.
“Police have their hands tied. They [offenders] go to court but the sentencing isn’t strong enough. We want stronger punishments.”
The government announced a multi-million dollar package to tackle retail crime
and reoffending yesterday.
The package included a fog cannon subsidy, with $4000 given to all small shops and dairies in New Zealand that wanted a fog cannon installed.
The shops were expected to pay the balance.
Additionally, the government offered $4 million in funding support to councils in Auckland, Hamilton and the Bay of Plenty to help with crime prevention programmes.
“[The] existing $6 million retail crime prevention fund eligibility expanded to include aggravated robberies, including those committed during the past 12 months.”
One man said Janak Patel’s parents had recently joined him and his new wife in New Zealand.
“His parents came over a week ago. He was their only son. Who will look after them now?”
Caffell said Janak Patel’s murder hurt everyone and was an indictment on society.
“It grieves me like it grieves you. This shouldn’t be happening in New Zealand.
“As mayor of this town, we really do appreciate everything you do. You are such valuable members of this society and you work your butts off, so thank you for what you do.”

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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