Home' Greymouth Star : May 25th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Monday, May 25, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1870 - Bushranger Captain Thunderbolt is
shot dead by Constable A B Walker.
1895 - Irish playwright Oscar Wilde is
convicted of a morals charge in London and is
later sentenced to prison.
1914 - Britain’s House of Commons passes
Irish Home Rule Bill.
1915 - In Europe, the second Battle of Ypres
ends. The Germans use poison gas
for the first time.
1935 - American athlete Jesse
Owens sets six world records in 45
1951 - Guy Burgess and Donald
Maclean, British foreign office
officials, disappear from L ondon. It is
later discovered they had spied for Russia.
1979 - America’s worst-ever air disaster occurs
when a DC-10 crashes at Chicago’s O’Hare
airport killing 273.
1982 - In the Falklands War, the British ships
Coventry and Atlantic Conveyor are sunk.
1986 - Thirty million people worldwide join in
pop singer Bob Geldof ’s Race Against Time to
raise money for the star ving in Africa.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Ralph Waldo Emerson, US writer (1803-
1882); Jeanne Crain, US actress (1925-2003);
Tom T Hall, US country singer (1936-); Dixie
Carter, US actress (1939-2010); Ian
McKellen, English actor (1939-);
Leslie Uggams, US singer-actress
(1943-); Frank Oz, director-voice
of Yoda and Miss Piggy among
others (1944-); Paul Weller, English
musician (1958-); Julian Clary,
British television personality (1959-);
Mike Myers, Canadian actor and
comedian (1963-); Jonny Wilkinson, English
rugby player (1979-) .
“Love, I find, is like singing. Everybody can
do enough to satisfy themselves, though it
may not impress the neighbours as being very
much.” — Zora Neale Hurston, American
“ We have not received the spirit of the world
but the Spirit who is from God, that we may
understand what God has freely given us. ”
— (1 Corinthians 2:12).
The Bank of New
Zealand at present
being constructed in
Hokitika is expected
to be open for business before the end of the
year. Building work is well under way and a
feature of construction is a concrete arch which
will stand higher than the actual building. On
the arch will be a clock and the letters BNZ.
The two-storeyed bulding is located in Weld
Street and will be right up to date in style
West Coast women hairdressers will receive
a wage rise from June 1. This was announced
today by the secretary of the Westland Shop
Assistants’ Union, Mr T Bond. The rise
includes the 6% general wage order granted
last November. However, no fixed increase was
made to the latest rate.
Hairdressers in their first six months have had
their weekly wage increased by 6s 1d to £3 15s,
while journeywomen (those who have ser ved
more than five years in the trade) will receive a
rise of 8s to £11.
Water taken direct from the Grey River was
used to fight a fire during the early hours of
yesterday morning. The blaze occurred when
a guide beacon at the end of the wharf caught
fire. The Greymouth Fire Brigade which was
called out at 2.30am operated a pump from the
river in its fight to quell the outbreak. A hose
reel operating from the appliance was also used.
The occasion was one of the few times when
such apparatus has been used. It is believed
the fire was caused by an electrical fault.
Considerable damage resulted.
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
Greymouth Evening Star Co Limited
3 Werita Street, PO Box 3, Greymouth
03 769 7900 (office)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
perfectly executed faked
It is 73 days since
pilot John Beckenridge broke a court order
and picked up his 11-year-old stepson
Mike Zhao-Beckenridge from school.
They went camping, something they
loved doing together. Eight days later,
Beckenridge’s blue Volkswagen Touareg
was gunned off a windswept clifftop at the
foot of New Zealand into the frothing sea
and jagged Jurassic rocks 88m below.
But no bodies have been found — and
close friends and neighbours of the
64-year-old, a mysterious character with
multiple aliases who had worked in some of
the world’s most dangerous countries, are
adamant it was part of an elaborate escape
“If I had a thousand bucks, I’d bet a
thousand bucks he didn’t do it. John is
a very clever bugger,” one mate said this
Another friend, a neighbour of
Beckenridge’s sprawling million-dollar
Queenstown home, was equally sure: “I
don’t believe for a minute they were in the
car. John’s too smart and would never do
anything to hurt Mike.”
An aviation expert says it would be
‘ improbable but not impossible’ to flee New
Zealand by helicopter, and criminologist
and ex-con Greg Newbold believes it is
‘definitely possible’ to disappear.
Early in the investigation, police said all
evidence pointed to the pair being inside
the car when it plunged over the Curio Bay
But it has remained a missing persons
case, not a homicide probe.
“If Beckenridge wanted to create a
mystery, he has gone the right way about
it,” said Paul Watson, whose farmland was
used for the car’s launching point.
John Robert Beckenridge, also variously
known as John Robert Lundh, Knut Goran
Roland Lundh, and John Bradford, was
born in Sweden in 1951.
A lifelong commercial helicopter pilot, he
worked in Europe, Australia, Alaska, Papua
New Guinea, and Afghanistan.
He was well-known in PNG helicopter
circles where news of his disappearance has
He was a long-term full-time pilot for
Pacific Helicopters PNG — an aviation
firm based in Eastern Highlands province
capital Goroka that flies for the oil, gas,
mining, drilling and construction sectors.
Pacific Helicopters PNG chief executive
Mal Smith said Beckenridge had worked
for them until last September, when he
“ We knew he had problems with his wife,
and problems getting access to his kid, but
we didn’t know it was to that extreme,” the
Smith described Beckenridge as a ‘very
capable’ experienced pilot who met all
‘check and training’ requirements.
He recently worked in Afghanistan on a
two-year construction company contract for
But Beckenridge was pulled out of
the war-torn country after two Pacific
choppers were shot down, and a fellow
About seven years ago, he moved with
his Chinese wife and stepson Mike to the
world’s adventure capital, Q ueenstown.
He helped build a large house in the
upmarket Lake Hayes estate at the foot of
The property, recently transferred into a
trust for Mike, has laid empty for the past
two months. The vast lawns need mowing.
An apple tree sags with bird-pecked fruit.
A meter reader’s card is wedged in the front
door, beside a window covered in Spider-
Man and Transformers stickers.
Mike was a ‘quiet, happy ’ pupil at nearby
Remarkables Primary School.
The Beckenridges were a ‘happy family
unit ’, according to a friend, who only
wanted to be known by his first name, Ant.
“They seemed pretty tight.”
Beckenridge was popular with his
neighbours. He always stopped to chat
and offered beers on balmy Central Otago
Neighbours this week described him
as a ‘quiet, unassuming character’ and a
‘resourceful and gifted’ craftsman.
“He was always building something,
creating something,” Ant said.
Ant ’s family cared for Mike occasionally
when Beckenridge was overseas on his
month-on, month-off flying job and his
wife was in Invercargill studying to become
a hair stylist.
The happy family life was rocked about
18 months ago when Beckenridge’s wife
She moved in with a new partner in
Invercargill, Beckenridge’s friends say. Mike
wanted to stay with his stepfather and his
“John was gutted, like anybody would be.
His focus turned 100% to Mike,” Ant said.
After the stepfather and stepson had lived
together for about 12 months, a custody
Beckenridge did not take part in the court
process, which ruled in the mother’s favour.
Judge Christina Cook declined an
application to view her decision.
But she released a judgment explaining
she had to balance the ‘welfare and best
interests’ of Mike and his mother. The judge
stressed there had been no question of
The decision to put Mike in the custody
of his mother came after findings the
boy had been ‘alienated’ in the care of
A Family Court parenting order
prevented Beckenridge from having any
contact with the youngster.
Mike was taken to live with his mother in
Invercargill, two hours away.
Beckenridge reacted badly.
“He was pretty bloody mad. Absolutely
gutted. He didn’t sleep for weeks,” Ant said.
“Everything John did was for Michael.
They did everything together, camping,
biking, mucking around. He didn’t have
another life apart from Michael.”
Despite the court order, Mike continued
to contact his stepdad. He did not agree
with the ruling and wanted to stay with
Beckenridge, friends say.
“Mike wanted John to go and get him,”
On Friday, March 13, Beckenridge drove
south to Invercargill and abducted Mike
from his new junior school, James Hargest
College, during the lunch break.
A missing persons report was filed later
that day by the distraught mother.
A police spokesman confirmed this week
that border alerts were placed on both Mike
Zhao-Beckenridge and John Beckenridge
‘ within 24 hours’ of police receiving the
missing persons report.
Over the next week, detectives believe the
pair camped in a tent and the car.
They received confirmed sightings of
them in the Catlins area.
On March 20, Beckenridge sent a text
message to Ant, as well as to his lawyer and
Detectives, who used cell-tower data to
pinpoint the location of Beckenridge in
the Catlins, say the tenor of those messages
But Ant says: “I never read into it that he
would do anything untoward, or that he
would harm Mike. Mike meant too much
Some time over the next 24 hours,
Beckenridge’s car went over the cliff at
It is a fortnight since the seas finally
calmed enough for police to recover the
wreck — nothing but a chassis, motor
and three wheels — from the narrow inlet
beneath Paul Watson’s farm.
All that was left of the 4WD Touareg
was a wrecked chassis, battered for weeks
by relentless swells that had gathered
unbridled momentum for thousands of
kilometres from Antarctica.
“There are only three or four days a year
where this place is calm enough for the
police to do what they had to do,” Watson
said, whose family has lived on the land for
“Beckenridge could’ve driven off
anywhere around here, but he has made a
concerted effort to get to the top of this
cliff — the highest point he could find.
“It’s a perfect spot, for whatever he was
planning to do, really. Lots of places around
here, you would just end up on the rocks. It
has obviously been very well-planned.”
Detectives and police forensic experts
have long since finished their sleuthing in
All that remains are three metal spikes
driven into the ground.
Two are within 2m of the cliff ’s edge
mark where the car’s tyre tracks ended.
The third, a few metres inland, is where
a wooden stake had been driven into the
clumpy grass, seemingly by Beckenridge, as
some sort of directional marker.
The day police searchers found some of
the wreckage in the inlet, Watson went to
He found clear tyre tracks running for
about 100m in a straight line towards the
cliff ’s edge.
The terrain is largely flat, with slight
undulations and bumps from clumped
Police have said it would have been
“difficult but not impossible” to rig the car
to drive itself off the cliff.
“The easiest option is to tie the (steering
wheel) down and shove something on the
accelerator,” a police spokesman said last
Once the wreck was recovered, forensic
testing could find no sign any bodies had
been in the car.
But given it took about six weeks for it to
be recovered — all the while being bashed
onto rocks by the raging waves — it was
The boy ’s mother declined approaches for
comment this week but her lawyer, Michael
Mika, said: “ The hope is that they are still
out there somewhere.”
Police are continuing to monitor
Beckenridge’s phone records and bank
Border alerts remain in place.
“It has come to a point where we
will be collating all of our information
and handing it to the coroner,” a police
“But any information we do receive, we
will be investigating as it comes in.”
James Hargest College principal Andrew
Wood said although the school was not a
‘fortress or prison’ staff have since “reflected
on our own processes” to see what they can
learn from the case.
Those close to Beckenridge believe he was
intelligent and resourceful enough, with the
right contacts, to be able to flee the country.
Aviation commentator Peter Clark said
flying out of New Zealand undetected by
helicopter was ‘a very big job’, involving
extra fuel tanks and a ‘fairly capable
“It is doable, but you would have to know
what you are doing. Nothing is impossible
for people who have ambition.”
However, it would be ‘impossible’ to fly
a helicopter direct to Australia or PNG
without stopping off to refuel, most
probably in Norfolk Island, he said.
That decreased the chances of getting
away without “some major questions being
University of Canterbury criminologist
Greg Newbold has followed the case with
“I never expected them to find any bodies
in that car,” he said.
“That guy loved that boy. Why on Earth
would he kill him?”
He believes the pair has fled overseas,
rather than hiding out in New Zealand.
“It’s definitely possible for him to get out
of the country.”
Police have referred the Beckenridges’ disappearance to the coroner but friends are convinced they are alive,
KURT BAYER of NZME News Service reports.
Police divers recover the car which plunged into the sea.
I just wondered if anyone who attended
last week’s Westland District Council
meeting, and also the Tb-Free meeting
the week before, experienced the deja vu
sensation I got.
It was exactly the same. Same hall, same
cold wet night, forcing yourself to leave a
cosy home. Just a different pack of officials
standing up the front telling you what
‘they ’ are doing,
Both meetings consisted of the
bureaucracy addressing the serfs. We then
got to ask questions, but (again at both
meetings) got no answers.
Tb-Free say they are ‘considering’
moving the buffer around which they will
Westland District Council say they are
‘consulting’ with us about massive rate
rises for some.
One thing you can say for officialdom,
they are consistent.
It was not us ratepayers who created the
misconduct that left the council in turmoil
(as Mr Havill stated it was in when he
took over), so why penalise us?
At least the mouse running around
the floor enjoyed the entertainment, and
provided us serfs with some much-needed
With regards the article on highway
rumble strips (Greymouth Star, May 21),
I as a regional councillor on the regional
land transport committee, raised this
matter of including the West Coast in the
‘ Visitor Drivers’ project as being ‘an after-
thought ’ by the-powers-that-be, and to
me it demonstrated our region, once again,
gets the second-class treatment.
It seems we are often a recipient care
of a ‘oh, we better include the Coast ’ in
this from far off bureaucrats, only after
someone properly analyses the data.
Of the region’s approximate 700km of
main highway we were down to get a
mere 50km of rumble strips — 7 .1%. Yet,
Otago-Southland, are getting 282km of
rubble strips with about 500km of highway
— 56.4%. The obvious disparity was the
reason I raised the issue.
What makes this even more odd, the
Government ’s own statistics (2009-13),
that do not include the latest deaths
at Hari Hari, on the documentation
presented to the meeting this showed the
West Coast was first and worst being ‘top
of the charts’, with all data showing the
top 20 local bodies by fatal and injury
crashes involving overseas drivers. We
had 37% of the total nationwide on both
On the documentation we were miles
in front of any region — Queenstown-
Southland were distant second and
third on the same list, at 24% and 25%
So, I asked the question — with that
data the West Coast is only getting
50km of rumble strips over 700km, while
Queenstown-Southland get near 300km
over roughly 500km of like highway.
Where is the fairness in that if we go by
the statistics, as politicians always like to
quote back to us? It is inequitable, pure and
Once again it seems to be another
example where the West Coast is the hick
relation, so it gets an inferior share of the
improvements on offer, yet we have by far
the worst record.
Given the scarcity of hospital ser vices and
emergency responders within the region,
to me 50km is just lip-ser vice. It makes no
sense, and nor are we getting our fair share.
Regarding the letter from Judy Tutchen
(Greymouth Star, May 20) about the
It is good to get feedback on cartoons
and the one Judy finds negative certainly
can be viewed that way. I have had several
positive comments from people about
that particular one, so everyone sees
The reasons behind it are that the West
Coast seems to be a part of New Zealand
that has a lower priority than Auckland,
for example. If the Government has one
ounce of integrity or moral obligation
they would give the West Coast the
$26 million they want to waste on the
stupid change of flag idea.
In the cartoon, I put everyone in a boat
named ‘The Forgotten’, depicting that we
are all in the same boat on the Coast, and
It is a dig at the politicians and what
has gone down over the past few years.
Punt and bold. These two words
have been used mostly about wanting
Development West Coast to purchase
the Kingston Flyer which their due
diligence scuttled. I am pleased DWC
did not take a punt and be bold. To punt
is betting at the races, usually money
down the gurgler. Being bold is what the
dickhead Pike Mine hierarchy including
directors did, resulting in 29 men killed
and no justice done yet.
Some years ago the $7 million forestry
compensation was dished out to each
of the district councils, two councils
taking a punt and being bold,
successfully from memory lost a
considerable amount of their residents’
share, maybe because only selective
political due diligence was carried out.
I certainly remember Gordon Ward
from Pike Mine persisted with vigour to
relieve the Grey District Council of at
least $2 million from that fund but was
clearly told ‘forget it, this money belongs
to those residing in our district ’.
I would have to wonder if the Grey
District Council are also taking a punt
and being bold the other night in
liquidating what is left in the reser ve
accounts on the CBD proposals. Actually,
these are ratepayers’ funds, not a slush
fund, and I am sure that the $1m would
only be the deposit.
This is when the belts are being
tightened locally because of very low
world commodity prices at the moment,
also those still to pay for connecting to
their sewerage schemes. There are still the
pool roof beams to replace and maybe
the roof yet as well, even though there is
So, the council would be wise to freeze
any warm fuzzy projects for a few years.
This is definitely not the time to throw
rate or reser ve money around on non-
I wonder to whom this Greymouth Star
article of May 2 applies? I would like to
know who made this comment. Have they
realised Greymouth has a high percentage
of elderly people? Does this person
have medical problems, need assistance
with walking and shopping? Do they
shop locally or by internet? Maybe their
workplace has allocated parking for them
I agree with Clark Ellery, we need
shelter to shop, not open spaces. We do
not enjoy the sunshine every day. Take
parking away from these people and they
will not go to town. To try to walk an
extra block or two is poor thinking, and
then ‘where to park?’
I have viewed the plans for the town
revamp. Very grand, and a bit hard to
understand. Who will use this open
space? Greymouth does need a boost, I
have no answers but feel this is a very
costly and unsuitable venture.
Tourists, we need to look after them but
do they stay long in our area? If Air New
Zealand cancels some of their overseas
flights into Christchurch, using only
Auckland and Queenstown, with their
massive airport upgrade, these tourists will
bypass the West Coast and go elsewhere.
Maybe we should have listened, but we
did not, to the suggestion of longstanding
mayor, the late Barry Dallas. His plans,
and I believe he had his eyes on the
land — build a large covered shopping
complex out of the town, the Barber and
the Maori lease.
Another interesting suggestion in the
town plan, traffic flow of Mawhera Q uay,
Mackay Street. Well, we shall wait and
Ride of Respect
We would like to thank the organisers
and the riders who took part in the recent
‘Ride of Respect ’. It was a brilliant ride
out to the Pike River Memorial, up to
Blackball and back to the cenotaph in
Greymouth to lay a wreath. It was very
moving to be involved in this ride to
remember those who gave their lives for
us, and to support the RSA.
A huge ‘thank you’ to the RSA for the
warm welcome to 50 motorcycles and
riders, and for the beautiful lunch when
Chris Busson and Eileen Parker
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