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From the Archives, 1990: Night of terror leaves 12 dead in New Zealand

Ten men, women and children in the tiny seaside township of Aramoana were killed.

The other victim was the first policeman at the scene. Sergeant Stu Guthrie is believed to have tried to shoot the gunman with a revolver before he was shot in the head with a semi-automatic AH47 assault rifle. Sergeant Guthrie was a I5-year member of the police armed offender squad.

Other police, who raced to the scene, including an anti-terrorist unit from Christchurch, were pinned down overnight by accurate fire from the heavily-armed gunman, 33-year-old David Malcolm Gray.

Police evacuated as many townsfolk as possible, leaving about a dozen people near Gray’s house trapped overnight in their homes.

Messages were broadcast over local radio advising the people to lock their doors, draw their curtains and take cover.

Two members of New Zealand's anti-terror police squad arrive in Aramoana from Wellington.

Two members of New Zealand’s anti-terror police squad arrive in Aramoana from Wellington.Credit:AP

Several cars fleeing the town were struck by bullets from Gray’s military-style rifle and a .308 hunting rifle. Heavy groves of trees and scrub in and around the township provided perfect cover for the rampage.

A police helicopter which approached the township at first light today withdrew rapidly after It was shot at.

The shootings began soon after 7 pm yesterday. At first many residents believed they were hearing a late Guy Fawkes party.

Mr Frank Henderson and his wife, Iris, told how a six-year-old neighbour had hopped on his hike to investigate, lured by the excitement of the fire engines and police cars with their sirens wailing. The youngster rode innocently into the shootout and was one of those killed.

Mrs Dorothy Crimp, who lived opposite the gunman, said her husband, 71-year-old Mr Vic Crimp, went next door to check on a neighbour when the shooting broke out. She was trapped in her home overnight.

At first she kept ringing the neighbour’s house, but the police phoned her and said to stop trying to find her husband because the phone calls could set the gunman off again.

When the siege ended at six minutes to six tonight, Mrs Crimp learned that her husband was one of the victims.

It is believed the first victim was the gunman’s next door neighbour, Mr Gary Holden, who was at home looking after his two daughters.

Shots were then fired at the two girls, Jasmine and Chiquita. Nine-year-old Chiquita was hit, but managed to escape and was last night in a stable condition in Dunedin Hospital alter an operation.

The gunman set fire to Mr Holden’s house and then began indiscriminately shooting people attracted to the blaze.

Map printed in The Age on November 15, 1990.

Map printed in The Age on November 15, 1990.Credit:The Age

Several bodies lay in the streets of Aramoana until this afternoon when the police were finally confident that they had Gray pinned down.

Gray was finally shot in the chest and head by anti-terrorist squad marksmen after he was seen not far from his home. One squad member was hit in the ankle but was not seriously wounded as Gray fired a last volley.

With 12 people dead, the Aramoana massacre is by far the worst in recent New Zealand history. In 1941 seven people died on the remote west coast, including four policemen and two home guardsmen, in a 12-day manhunt sparked by the refusal by Eric Stanley Graham to hand In his firearms for the war effort.

Aramoana is a tiny seaside town with a normal population of about 50 people that swells considerably during holidays. It is 27 kilometres north of Dunedin and near Murdering Beach, the site of another past massacre.

In 1817, the crew of the sealing brigantine Sapphire killed 70 local Maori people on the beach after three of their crew had been killed by the Maoris who had recognised one of them as a trader in preserved heads.

The latest killings came just two days after the film ‘Commando’, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in violent shooting sprees, had been shown on national television. The director of the Mental Health Foundation, Mr. Max Abbott said there had been several cases of copycat crime in New Zealand.

Killer was a loner, say locals

The Aramoana gunman, David Malcolm Gray, who died when he was shot by police tonight, was a loner who locals had predicted could go off the deep end.

In January, a Dunedin bookshop owner, Mr. Bill Brosnan, reported Gray to the police alter an incident in which he took what appeared to be a shotgun into Mr Brosnan’s shop in a cardboard box and threatened an assistant.

Mr. Brosnan said he had known Gray for seven years. Gray had a great interest in military books and was a keen reader of ‘Soldier of Fortune’ magazine.

Mr Brosnan remembered Gray as a loner who brooded and imagined himself wronged.

Over the past two or three years his mental state had appeared to be worsening.

When Gray reappeared in the bookshop about a month after the incident In January, Mr. Brosnan served him with a trespass notice. He said Gray tore up the notice but never returned.

Mr Brosnan said he and his assistant had discussed the incident in January, and decided to report it because they both considered Gray capable of killing.

Neighbours described Gray as a total loner. He had a tendency to dress in military-style clothes.

Gray, who lived with his mother for many years, appeared to become more reclusive after her recent death.

A Christchurch arms dealer, who recently received a letter from Gray inquiring about parts for an assault rifle, said Gray’s spelling and grammar showed he was barely literate.

Gray was listed on the electoral roll as a farm worker, but locals said he had been out of work for several years.

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