The man accused of murdering Christchurch mother Laisa Tunidau just metres from her family home as she walked from her bus after work has appeared in court for a second time.
He still cannot be named publicly.
And the slain woman’s husband has spoken for the first time about his loss – and how he found out about his wife’s death – following her burial in Fiji.
Tunidau, 52, caught the bus home from work and was metres from her house on Cheyenne St, Sockburn, when she was attacked about 4.20pm on June 25.
Tunidau’s 11-year-old son has been left “traumatised” after watching emergency services try to save a woman outside his family home, not then knowing it was his mother.
Police found her alleged attacker nearby and he was later charged with murder.
The 37-year-old was a patient of the Canterbury District Health Board’s specialist mental health service based at Hillmorton.
He had been allowed out on community leave.
On Monday June 27, the man made a brief appearance in the Christchurch District Court.
He was granted interim name suppression and the judge sought a report under Section 38 of the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003 to assess his fitness to stand trial.
The accused was remanded in custody until his appearance in the High Court at Christchurch today.
Justice Cameron Mander heard today the psychiatric report was not yet complete and additional reports were also being sought by the defence.
Defence lawyer Josh Lucas sought a six-week adjournment to allow time for the reports to be completed and filed with the court.
The man appeared by audio-visual link and did not speak during the short hearing.
Justice Mander set a prospective trial date for February 2024.
He extended the interim name suppression until at least August 26 when the accused will appear again.
Tunidau’s body was taken home to Fiji and her funeral was held on July 5 in her village of Nabitu in Tailevu.
According to Fiji media, hundreds of family and friends – some who travelled from Christchurch – attended the service.
Nemani Tunidau told the Fiji Times the last time saw his wife was the morning of her alleged murder.
He dropped her at work before travelling to visit Fijian workers at Waimate.
“When I was in Waimate, I was with a Fijian man who works in government and they have some kind of network where they are alerted if something happens or an accident happens around New Zealand,” he said.
“I heard them saying that someone was stabbed in Christchurch but they didn’t mention anything in detail to me.”
Nemani Tunidau later went to his pastor’s home and his son was there.
“Something has happened to mum,” the boy said.
The police then told Nemani Tunidau about the alleged murder.
He described his wife as a softly spoken and humble woman.
Almost a week after the alleged murder the CDHB confirmed a full review had been launched into how the accused was allowed into the community.
“Whenever a serious adverse event occurs involving patients in our care a full review is carried out. A serious event review looks carefully into the care provided,” said
CDHB chief executive Dr Peter Bramley.
“I can assure the public that if there are recommendations for changes to be made as a result of our own, or any external review, these will be actioned.
“We continue to assist police with their investigations and as this matter is before the courts it is not appropriate for us to provide any further comment at this time.”
Tunidau and her husband are originally from Fiji.
An adult son is a police officer based at the Sigatoka Police Station.
The local Fijian community in Christchurch rallied around her husband and son after her death, arranging them somewhere to stay away from the crime scene outside their home.
A Givealittle page set up to support the family has raised more than $67,000.
Tunidau has three children living back in Fiji.
Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price said the alleged murder was “a horrific, traumatic and random attack on an innocent person who was simply making her way home from work”.
The traumatic, senseless act would have a huge impact on the community as a whole and right across New Zealand, he said.
“No one deserves this.”
WHERE TO GET HELP
If it is an emergency and you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
For counselling and support
Lifeline: Call 0800 543 354 or text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: Call 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Need to talk? Call or text 1737
Depression helpline: Call 0800 111 757 or text 4202
For children and young people
Youthline: Call 0800 376 633 or text 234
What’s Up: Call 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm) or webchat (11am to 10.30pm)
The Lowdown: Text 5626 or webchat
For help with specific issues
Alcohol and Drug Helpline: Call 0800 787 797
Anxiety Helpline: Call 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)
OutLine: Call 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE) (6pm-9pm)
Safe to talk (sexual harm): Call 0800 044 334 or text 4334
All services are free and available 24/7 unless otherwise specified.
For more information and support, talk to your local doctor, hauora, community mental health team, or counselling service. The Mental Health Foundation has more helplines and service contacts on its website
-By Anna Leask