Wairarapa Police Area Commander Scott Miller. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV

Community left in shock

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

Jody Ratima and James Teddy had been in a relationship for 10 years.

In the early hours of Monday morning, the 48-year-old and 54-year-old were found shot dead in a bedroom at their home near Castlepoint.

A bolt-action .22 rifle was found nearby, police confirmed on Tuesday.

Post-mortem examinations were under way in Wellington on Tuesday after an investigation was opened for the apparent murder-suicide.

Wairarapa Police Area Commander Scott Miller said police were still trying to establish where the weapon had come from.

Police at the scene of the shooting.

Forensic teams remained on site on Tuesday morning, but a police presence was far less noticeable than Monday.

Miller confirmed specialised counselling had been offered to the three witnesses of the incident – two were in their 20s and one in their 40s, all connected to the couple.

Pending results, the deaths would likely be referred to the coroner.

Wairarapa’s coastal community has had a difficult start to the new year – four deaths in as many days.

The bodies of Darren Southon, 48, and his 11-year-old son, Josh, were recovered off the coast of Mataikona on Saturday evening after the father and son were reported missing while diving for paua.

One resident who knew the families involved in both tragedies said the four people who had died were “all beautiful people”.

She said the community had been hit hard over the past few days.

“There are some gloomy days ahead,” she said.

Another neighbour agreed, saying “it’s usually such a quiet place”.

Though there are several houses in the area, only three or four were occupied full-time.

One resident who had lived there for more than 20 years said he knew something serious had happened on Friday when he heard three helicopters flying overhead.

The community was quick to spring into action and help with the search for the Southons.

“The locals couldn’t have done any more. They were really on to it.”

He said the community was still in a state of shock when they were woken by helicopters again on Monday morning.

Though he didn’t know the couple who died well, he said they seemed like “good, hardworking people”.

“It’s like something you see on CSI [Crime Scene Investigation – an American TV show]. You don’t expect it here.”

The area had changed over the years and had become “more touristy” and most houses were rented out, he said.

Down the road at Castlepoint, things seemed a little more normal with people walking down the beach, day trippers in the parking lot, and families moving between baches.

You can tell it’s been a hard time when one stops and asks locals how they are doing – responses range from heavy sighs and teary eyes to shaking heads.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said there was a general feeling of sadness and disbelief with those she had spoken to around town.

“We are not a big community so when something like this happens, everybody knows somebody who is impacted. None of us are insulated.”

She said it was a “tragic” way to start 2020.

The community could support each other by talking about their feelings, particularly with children who may be impacted, she said.

Eleven-year-old Josh Southon was described as a kind, caring and humble child with an amazing sense of humour by Douglas Park School principal Gareth Sinton.

“Josh will be fondly remembered by all those whose lives he graced,” he said.

“He was a valued member of the classroom, his peers and staff held him in high regard as a role model within our school.”

Bob Francis saw his fair share of devastating incidents as Masterton mayor in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“It’s a long time since we’ve had a significant event like this,” he said.

Though these events differed from those he experienced, they still greatly impacted the community, he said.

“It’s really hard on the community. The impact goes on for a long time.

“We do have a very strong community. There’s been a lot of love and support provided to the families.”