Teacher found murdered in New Zealand classroom

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Lois Dear, a 66-year-old teacher at Strathmore Primary School, Tokoroa, has been murdered in her classroom at about noon on Sunday. She was found by two of her colleagues, lying face down. New Zealand Police say that the teacher had suffered head injuries, and her death was 'nasty'.

The police currently have no suspects.

School was supposed to return back to start term 3 but today the school was cordoned and being guarded by police while the 278 pupils got the day off.

The body was not removed from the scene until noon today, Monday 17, when it was carried off to a hearse and a karakia (Maori prayer) was performed in front of 70 people.

Staff will be offered counselling.

Ngaire Taikato, a colleague of Ms Dear, told Newstalk ZB "the school has been devastated at the killing. It will take a long time for the children at the school to get over Ms Dear's death, and a lot of counselling will be needed. Dear was never in the staff room, because she was always out with the children who loved and respected her."

The school will no longer let teachers work by themselves out of school hours, the school will introduce a buddy system, for the teachers safety. However Pat Newman, New Zealand Principals' Association president, said "schools are generally secure places where teachers can work safely on their own."

Murray Kendrick, principal of Strathmore Primary School, said "the school had had the occasional break-in but no major problems." Detective Sergeant Karl Thornton, the officer in charge of the investigation, said "It was too soon to say whether robbery could be behind the attack."