A year since triple shootings

Wednesday October 18, 2017 Written by Published in Local

A year ago today, the country reeled in shock and disbelief when a 47-year old escaped male prisoner took a .22 rifle, murdered two people, then killed himself 16 hours later with the same gun.

 

In the worst shooting incident ever to occur on Rarotonga, Chris Rimamotu will long be remembered for violently ending the life of his former partner and mother of his son, Mary Dean.

Moments later, he also targeted Dean’s new partner Roger Tauarea, who died in hospital the same day.

The tragedy horrified the nation, people asking how could a premeditated act of such cold-blooded violence happen here.

It subsequently emerged that Rimamotu was disturbed, obsessed with his ex-partner and had threatened to kill her on several occasions. His state of mind and those threats had been largely ignored.

Following the triple shooting, Police minister Nandi Glassie publicly admitted the entire tragedy had been preventable.

Prison Services had ignored its own rules and policies enabling Rimamotu to escape, even transporting the prisoner to within 200 metres of his unsuspecting victims.

Led by cousin Tapairu Tuakeu-Skinner, Mary Dean’s family demanded a full and independent inquiry into what happened.

Three months later, retired assistant Australian Federal Police Commissioner Denis McDermott and former Cook Islands Police Commissioner Tevai Matapo were appointed to conduct the investigation. Their report, containing 47 recommendations for police and Prison Services to implement, was released to the family in late March.

Tuakeu-Skinner says all three families have been waiting to hear what recommendations have so far been put in place. Meanwhile, questions from media asking what progress has been made have gone unanswered.

“The recommendations have been made to try and prevent any such tragedy like this ever happening again. It’s not just the shattered families who deserve to know what’s been done, the general public also need reassurance that steps have been taken,” says Tuakeu-Skinner.

“It would show that the government is being proactive.”

“We’ve lost loved family members, a 10-year old boy was orphaned, the lives of Mary’s three older children have been devastated, we were all shattered but we haven’t received one single letter offering any kind of compassion.”

Police say that “nearly all” of the recommendations made by the McDermott/Matapo report have been met, but did not provide further details in a brief emailed response late yesterday afternoon.

Media liaison officer Trevor Pitt said a longer answer from police would involve “itemised comments, which the Commissioner will have to provide me as he can.”

A special event had been planned by the police service to mark the anniversary of the tragedy, he added.

“To remember those who lost their lives and the officers who served with bravery during the ordeal”, Pitt said police would hold a morning church service at the Catholic cathedral in town today. 

There will then be a parade and flag-raising, and a special breakfast for police to commemorate the anniversary.

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