The Bronx, Petone: Three murders but the baking is good

Life returns to normal in the Jackson St flats after a decapitation days before.
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFFLife returns to normal in the Jackson St flats after a decapitation days before.

It’s close to the beach and it’s a good neighbourhood, “till all this stuff happened”. 

That stuff was a grisly beheading just upstairs from her a week earlier then reports of the head being carried around in a plastic bag.

Home to some, a crime scene to others - the Jackson St flats after another homicide.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFFHome to some, a crime scene to others – the Jackson St flats after another homicide.

But it wasn’t just that incident that cast a pall of darkness over the area of Housing NZ flats at the end of Jackson St that locals have aptly named The Bronx.

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There were two other recent killings, both with links to the Mongrel Mob, which thrives in and around these three-storey concrete blocks even if the Government landlord says no gang members are tenants there.

The foul smelling Te Mone Stream runs behind the Jackson Street Housing NZ flats in Petone.
KEVIN STENT/STUFFThe foul smelling Te Mone Stream runs behind the Jackson Street Housing NZ flats in Petone.

There is the sometimes-stench that rises from Te Mome Stream – or Dead Man’s Arm to locals – that barely flows behind the flats and till recently featured on a nationwide top-10 worst-of-the-worst contamination list.

“Our door is always getting kicked in,” the woman, who doesn’t want to be named, mentions nonchalantly. Her friend comes out from the police cordon offering home baking.

Elsewhere, another woman finds little nice to say about the Bronx, which she moved out of the day after a murder.

Firefighters assisting police at the Jackson St flats where Frank Tyson was killed.
MATTHEW TSO/STUFFFirefighters assisting police at the Jackson St flats where Frank Tyson was killed.

She wants to go by the name Monique rather than her real name – she doesn’t want her former neighbours knowing where she is now.

August 23, 2013, was her last day there. The day before Sio Matalasi, 25, died after a bullet from a cutdown rifle tore through his torso. Mob members Shane Pierre Harrison, 44, and Dillin Pakai, 19, were later found guilty of his murder.

“When I walked over he was still alive [and receiving CPR],” Monique said. Soon after Matalasi’s partner came across the horror scene.

Crime scene tape at the flats.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFFCrime scene tape at the flats.

“I moved out the next day. I left all my stuff there and I left,” Monique said.

That same year, Jessica Lee Keefe, 30, was found not guilty of the murder or manslaughter of her violently abusive Mongrel Mob member partner Sean Verma in nearby Housing NZ flats. A jury heard that, as Verma lay dying on the ground his dying words to a neighbour were, “she stabbed me, dog”.

But things weren’t always so grim. About six years earlier Monique had asked Housing NZ to move in – specifically to those same flats where a friend of her’s lived.

A health warning at Te Mome Stream - or Dead Man's Arm - that runs behind the Jackson St flats and beside Shandon Golf Club.
STUFFA health warning at Te Mome Stream – or Dead Man’s Arm – that runs behind the Jackson St flats and beside Shandon Golf Club.

“They moved me in that day … I found out quickly what it was like.”

She remembered finding a three-year-old boy sleeping in the public stairwell at 1am. She knew where he lived. She had heard the shouting, the arguing, the drunkenness that night and knew why he wasn’t home.

She took him in for the night and in the morning returned him to another family member. At 8.30am that morning she saw the boy’s mother, who didn’t know her son had been missing. “I think she was still a bit drunk,” Monique said.

Frank Tyson, the man decapitated at  Housing New Zealand's Jackson Street flats in Petone.
FACEBOOKFrank Tyson, the man decapitated at Housing New Zealand’s Jackson Street flats in Petone.

Arguments, fights, and drug deals in public areas were par for the course, as was seeing raging arguments between parents while young children screamed hopelessly for them to stop.

“Every night I had this thing, is this the night my door gets kicked in?”

Heavy metal doors to block entry to all but residents on the ground floor of each block were often destroyed, as were security cameras. The stench from the stream – if it can be called that – permeated the place.

“It gets into your flat, it gets into your washing.”

She reckoned all sorts of weapons – machetes, baseball bats – had been thrown in that grey-brown water.

There is an irony that lying on the other side of that same putrid water lies the private Shandon Golf Club where a year’s membership costs $1335. Safe to say there are also a few Titleist golf balls in there among the machetes.

Jessica Lee Keefe on trial at the Wellington High Court for murder of Sean Verma at Petone. She was found not guilty.
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFFJessica Lee Keefe on trial at the Wellington High Court for murder of Sean Verma at Petone. She was found not guilty.

Monique believed Housing NZ was intentionally placing Mongrel Mob members in the flats, as well as turning a blind eye when they moved in without permission.

These days in a nicer house, Monique was upset but not surprised  to hear Frank Tyson, her one-time neighbour, had been killed. It was just par for the course at the Bronx. “It is absolutely normal there. They talk about it for a few days then it is gone.”

Housing NZ, in a statement, said no known gang members were tenants at the complex. Chief operating officer Paul Commons said last week’s death was a shock to tenants and the neighbourhood.

Iafeta Matalasi in happier times with his son Sio at Waiouru in 2009 where he was an army trainee. Sio Matalasi was murdered by gang associates in Petone.
photo supplied by familyIafeta Matalasi in happier times with his son Sio at Waiouru in 2009 where he was an army trainee. Sio Matalasi was murdered by gang associates in Petone.

There was little he could say about the killing, as there was a homicide case going through the courts, but he said staff were supporting residents.

“What I would like to emphasise is our Jackson St tenants are a strong, resilient group. It’s a community where the tenants, along with our help, are supporting each other through this. They’re also respectful of each other and their wider community.”

Housing NZ was upgrading 75 per cent of its properties in the coming 20 years and the Jackson St site would be upgraded in 2019, he said.

Sentencing, at the Wellington High Court, of Shane Pierre Harrison for the murder of Alonsio (Sio) Matalasi.
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFFSentencing, at the Wellington High Court, of Shane Pierre Harrison for the murder of Alonsio (Sio) Matalasi.

“All the homes at Jackson Street meet the necessary requirements under the Residential Tenancies Act,” he said.

The Jackson St complex had generated few complaints in recent years.

“We’ve also made safety improvements to the complex in the past couple of years which have  included adding CCTV to monitor access points and entrances, installing swipe cards to limit public access to the buildings and adding lighting to improve site lines around the complex.”

Back at the Bronx this week, the rumour –  almost a week after the homicide – is police are about to pack up. Apart from the police tape, the man walking around in a forensics outfit, the crime scene tape and all that hoopla, life is back to normal.

A resident – the same one handing out home baking – passes a cup of coffee to a security guard and others proudly show off the badges for graduation from a living with non-violence course.

Over the back fence, the ferocious stench of Dead Man’s Arm from a few days before is notably less.

 

 

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