Home' Greymouth Star : February 4th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
8 - Saturday, February 4, 2017
t was nearly 9am on Saturday
February 8, 1997 when
Neville and Helen Anderson
sat down for breakfast at their
Just south of the tiny rural
settlement of Raurimu in the central
North Island, it was set against a
backdrop of lush, green bush and
They were joined by four couples
Isabel and Anthony McCarty,
Raymond and Eve Spencer, Gordon
and Andrea Brander, Stephen
Hanson and Michelle Churton —
and their good mate John Matthews.
Within minutes five of the people
sitting at the breakfast table would be
dead and the rest running for their
Two years earlier the Andersons’
son Stephen had been diagnosed
with paranoid schizophrenia. He was
under the care of the Capital and
Coast District Health Board.
His parents felt he was not well
enough to be left home alone in
Wellington that particular weekend,
so brought him along.
“ He just came into the room with
quite a stern look on his face, then he
said something about having had sex
with a cat and dog,” Helen Anderson
would later reveal in court.
“I was quite horrified. I got up
immediately and suggested he go into
the bathroom and have a wash, then
go and have some breakfast.”
Anderson walked out of the room,
returning two minutes later with a
sawn-off single-barreled shotgun.
“ What are you doing ... Give it
to me Stephen,” Neville Anderson
shouted at his son, grabbing the
barrel of the gun.
Anderson pulled the trigger and
killed his father.
Helen and her guests scrambled to
get out of the room, out of the lodge,
out of the line of fire.
The shots kept coming.
Andrea and John were killed inside
the lodge as they tried to flee, and
Stephen Hanson was shot dead while
he was on the phone to police
The helpless policeman on the other
end of the line heard Hanson beg for
his life, then the gunshots came, and
there was silence.
Outside, the Spencers and the
McCartys came under fire.
As he dived into the bushes,
Raymond Spencer was shot in the
side of the face. He and his wife
dropped to the ground, pretending
they were dead in a bid to save their
Isabel McCarty was shot in the
back and passed out as she collapsed.
When she woke to see her husband
lay dead beside her.
Michelle Churton was found hours
after the massacre, cowering in the
She had covered herself with
foliage so Anderson could not see her,
stuffing a t-shirt into her mouth to
muffle her terrified whimpers.
From her hiding place she could
hear the carnage.
“There appeared to be many shots
going off continuously,” she later told
“There was a lot of screaming... ”
Anderson had picked off everyone
he could from the lodge, but his
rampage was far from over.
He headed towards the neighbour’s
place, the home of Henk and Helena
Van de Wetering.
Rod Van de Wetering would give
almost anything to go back to that
In his first full inter view since that
day he said he remains haunted by
what unfolded at his parents’ home.
“I know I did everything I could
that day, I know I didn’t do too bad
a job because I got my two kids out,
and my mum, but in the back of my
mind my dad still died because I
didn’t kill Stephen Anderson.
“I still feel guilty about that; even
though I know I shouldn’t, I still do.
You can’t just bury that.”
Henk was on the computer, Helena
was making the breakfast, Kim was
getting the kids up and dressed for
the day and Rod was outside loading
up the car.
Suddenly, gunshots pierced the
sleepy Saturday morning — a few
in quick succession — and though
it crossed Rod’s mind that it was
inconsiderate to be firing off shots
that early in the weekend, he wasn’t
Then Helen Anderson appeared.
“She came over the fence and I
thought that was a bit strange,” Rod
“She was rather hysterical ... she
said there’d been some shootings, that
some people were dead.”
Rod and Henk rushed up to the
Andersons lodge and saw people
lying dead, a couple staggering up the
driveway, struggling to walk.
“My father went over to help them
and told me to go back home and
ring the police. That was the last time
I saw my father alive ...”
Rod raced home, rang the police
and told his mother and Helen
Anderson to get the kids and get into
the car. Meanwhile, Kim ran up the
driveway to the main road to help
“Mum and Helen were getting in
the back of the car with the kids,
I was fumbling through the house
trying to piece together a rifle.
“I got everyone into the car and
I started reversing to turn the car
around and head up the driveway.
That ’s when I saw Anderson come
over the fence.”
Anderson, still armed with the
sawn-off shotgun, blocked Rod from
There was no way he could reverse
up the steep driveway to the road, so
he drove back towards the house.
“I was hoping I could get the car
around the back of the house, but the
gate was closed and locked so I did
the only thing I could — I hopped
out and confronted Anderson as he
came down the driveway.
Rod had his rifle aimed at Anderson
and told him to “back off ” several
times. Anderson dropped to the
ground, surprising Rod, then looked
up at him and shot him in the face.
Rod stumbled towards the bush,
scrambled over a fence and ran.
“I vaguely remember hearing more
shots from behind me ... I’m not sure
how far he followed me, but at some
point he went up the hill to the main
road. That ’s when he confronted my
wife, that ’s when he killed my father.”
Kim and Henk had flagged down
a logging truck when Anderson
“popped out ” from behind it.
He shot Henk in the head, aimed
at Kim, then seemed to change his
mind and fled.
Meanwhile Rod was still forging
through the bush, heading for the
top of the Raurimu Spiral, that feat
of railway engineering at the top of a
hill near the town.
He collapsed there and lay bleeding
until police found him. He was
rushed to Palmerston North Hospital
where he was later reunited with Kim
and given the gut-wrenching news of
his father’s death.
The memories of her father-in-law
being shot in front of her, a gunman
taking aim at her husband and kids
and her being helpless to stop him
is something Kim Van de Wetering
For two years after the massacre
Kim was medicated.
“My God-given right to bring up
my children as a healthy, competent
and compassionate young mother —
that was taken from me.
“ To this day in public, I never
have my back to the opening of a
restaurant or door, I always have
an escape route. I do this without
Kim and Rod left New Zealand
after the incident and now live
overseas. Helena, who did not want
to speak about Raurimu publicly, is
also living abroad.
The family remember Henk every
day. They talk about him, have made
sure Becky and Troy know about
their grandfather, a man they believe
was a real hero at Raurimu.
“ What happened this morning?”
detective Derek Webb asked
Anderson as they sat in an inter view
room at the Taurmaranui police
“ Who was the first person you
“ Dog. Hang on, I think the first one
I got was my father. He was disguised
Two decades have passed since
that inter view, conducted not long
after the head of the local Criminal
Investigation Branch jumped from a
helicopter to arrest Anderson.
Mr Webb, now retired, was at home
when he got the call that there had
been an incident at Raurimu.
Not long after he was up in a
chopper with local pilot Keith Mr
McKenzie, scouring the scrub and
bush around the Andersons’ lodge
as armed police crisscrossed the
landscape on foot.
McKenzie spotted a figure darting
out of the bush and lowered the
chopper so Webb could get a better
“ We saw that this person was
naked. I realised at that stage it was
the offender. I could see there was
no firearm on him, I signalled to this
person, motioned for him to lie on
the ground. He looked at me and
then he (ran) off, so we followed.
“ We got down even lower and I
motioned to him again to lie down
and this time I pointed my rifle in his
“ When he saw the rifle he fell to
the ground, then I jumped out of
the helicopter and made sure he was
secure. At that time the AOS arrived,
the offender was handcuffed and
we took him back by helicopter to
During the inter view Anderson
elaborated on his father being
“dressed as dog”.
“ He said that was God spelled
back-to-front. He told me that he
shot his father because ‘he was dog’.”
Following his trial in December
1997 Anderson was detained in a
forensic mental health facility as a
special patient, meaning his release
could be signed off only by the
The next anyone would hear of
the killer was in 2008 when it as
revealed Anderson had been given
regular, unsuper vised leave from the
facility and had spent Christmas with
relatives at their home.
In 2009 Anderson was released to
live in Upper Hutt. He remained a
special patient and was still under the
care and monitoring of the facility
however, he was able to live in the
During his release he published a
book of poetry entitled Toys in the
Attic — but his freedom was cut
short soon after that when he was
allegedly caught using synthetic
cannabis and authorities recalled him
to the mental health facility.
It emerged in 2014 that Anderson
was back out in the community part-
time, and allowed to visit his mother’s
Waikanae home for specified periods.
He was working as a tutor at
Wellington’s Inverlochy Art School,
where he was described as a “talented”
Managers at Inverlochy had no idea
about Anderson’s past, and once the
events of 1997 were brought to their
attention, the tutor’s job was no more.
The Ministry of Health confirmed
this week that Anderson, while living
as part of the community, is still a
special patient “and is managed and
monitored as such”.
No further information could
be given about his treatment or
In April 1999, after an inquest into
the shootings, Coroner Tim Scott
found the massacre would never have
occurred had the shotgun at the lodge
been locked away.
A report at the time stated Scott
“ laid the blame for the killings on
the shoulders of Anderson’s father
Neville, the first of the six victims”.
“ He was a man familiar with
firearms, but his attitude to storage
was casual and careless.
“That attitude cost him and five
others their lives. If there is one single
fact that has given rise to this tragedy,
it was that carelessness.”
Ski lodge massacre
On February 8, 1997 Stephen Lawrence Anderson went on a killing spree in the small
North Island town of Raurimu. Six people lost their lives and others were wounded as they
tried to flee the gunman — a cannabis-using schizophrenic. Next week marks 20 years
since the massacre, and the Weekend Herald looks back on the terror and tragedy.
The lodge where the shootings took place.
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