Trial of New Zealand teacher murderer still months away

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

The accused murderer of Tokoroa, New Zealand teacher Lois Dear, Whetu Te Hiko, has appeared at the High Court in Rotorua but was remanded further into custody.

Only written evidence was given while in court.

Dear, 66-years-old, was found murdered in her class at Strathmore School a day before term 3 started, July 16.

Hiko, 23-years-old, was remanded in custody until November 9 when he will be indicted, but it is unsure when the trial date will be set.

While in the dock Hiko, who has pleaded not guilty, hung his head and only showed his back to the crowded public gallery. He occasionally looked up to look at Justice Paul Heath, the residing judge. Heath said that they would not arraign Hiko yet because it is too soon after the depositions hearing.

Kevin McNeil, son of Dear, was also present at the high court. "I am here today for Mum. She would have been here for us. Nearly three months on, the evidence in the murder case was still being withheld, and a lot of it probably will be for some time." He was however confient that justice would be served. While wiping his eyes he added: "It's bloody hard. You have your bad days when the tears come. You never know when it is going to happen."

Hiko was in the Tokoroa District Court just under a month ago for the depositions hearing.

Brother of Hiko, Piri Te Hiko, said to McNeil: "She sounded like a real good lady. She taught a lot of my nieces and nephews."

The two men then shook hands and McNeil said that his family does not hold any animosity at Hiko's family.

Heath has rule that the media cannot publish the written depositions but may read them. The media cannot also view photographs or exhibitions that are evidence. Heath was concerned that it would become an unfair trial.