Liv­ing with daugh­ter’s killer as they searched

Waipa Post - - News - NA¯ NATALIE AKOORIE

They moved into their miss­ing daugh­ter’s house to look af­ter their grand­chil­dren as the town searched for her. Lit­tle did they know, they were liv­ing with her killer.

On Fri­day Cory Jef­feries was sen­tenced to at least 11 years in jail in the Hamil­ton High Court for the mur­der of the 42-year-old mother of his three chil­dren, Kim Rich­mond.

He ad­mit­ted at trial in July to killing her, but de­nied mur­der.

Rich­mond dis­ap­peared on July 31, 2016 af­ter the cou­ple drove home from a func­tion in Aro­hena.

Her body was found by po­lice in her ute in nearby Lake Ara­puni 11 months later.

Speak­ing ex­clu­sively to NZME, mother Ray­wynne Rich­mond said she and hus­band Matt Rich­mond, Kim’s fa­ther, moved in with Jef­feries to look af­ter their grand­chil­dren, stay­ing for four months.

“We had a map of the wider area which we looked at ev­ery morn­ing to see where we were go­ing to search next.

“And he stood there and he looked at that map ev­ery morn­ing, but never came on the search.

“It was re­ally strange that he had never gone on a search, at all.”

The Rich­monds searched the area for eight months.

“I knew af­ter a week we weren’t go­ing to find her alive,” Matt said.

“But we just car­ried on to find her.”

The cou­ple had com­forted Jef­feries while their daugh­ter was miss­ing.

“He came back from be­ing in­ter­viewed by the po­lice one day and he walked in the door, a tear came out of his eye and he said ‘I think they think I did it’,” Ray­wynne said.

“I put my hands on his shoul­ders and said ‘Well did you?’, and he said ‘No’.

“So I gave him a cud­dle and a kiss and said ‘Well we be­lieve you then’, and the tears stopped like that.

“He thought he had got away with it be­cause they’d searched the lake by then and found noth­ing.”

And when Kim’s farm cards were found on the road­side near Rangipo¯, Jef­feries told Ray­wynne: “Oh that takes the heat off me”.

“While they were search­ing for their daugh­ter, Jef­feries started a new re­la­tion­ship,” Ray­wynne said.

“Here we were, still search­ing for her and he had started a new re­la­tion­ship. We were hor­ri­fied at that.”

The woman was not the same one Jef­feries ad­mit­ted to po­lice he kissed in the months lead­ing up to Kim’s death.

“We felt un­com­fort­able be­ing there and I just said to Matt, ‘I think it’s time we went home’.

She said she first sus­pected Jef­feries about seven months af­ter her daugh­ter dis­ap­peared.

“I had sus­pected he was the guilty party but never said it. I thought it was strange that noth­ing had been found, that’s why.” But her hus­band wasn’t con­vinced.

“Matt . . . nearly hit one of the de­tec­tives,” Ray­wynne said.

“Matt was adamant he didn’t do it. Even when they ar­rested him.”

The 75-year-old for­mer log­ging truck driver and mu­si­cian went from shocked to an­gry.

While on re­mand he ac­cused Ray­wynne and Matt of steal­ing “mat­ri­mo­nial prop­erty” when they were forced to pack up the farm­house Jef­feries and Kim rented to­gether.

But de­spite their own feel­ings for Jef­feries, the cou­ple told the chil­dren their fa­ther was “in­no­cent un­til proven guilty”.

“When he ad­mit­ted to the man­slaugh­ter we sat them all down and said Dad had ad­mit­ted to killing mum.

“When I sat them down and said ‘Well he’s been con­victed of mur­der which means he’ll get a longer term in prison’, they just said ‘Oh’.

“At the end of the day he’s still their fa­ther re­gard­less of what he’s done.” Un­for­giv­able

“Jef­feries’ self­ish ac­tions have stolen both par­ents from the chil­dren,” Ray­wynne said.

“That’s the re­ally, re­ally sad part is he didn’t think of those chil­dren in do­ing what he did, did he? Or was he so cocky that he thought he would never get caught?

“By the time he gets out of prison they’re all go­ing to be adults.” Ray­wynne said the fam­ily can “never, ever for­give” Jef­feries for Kim’s mur­der.

Speak­ing at Jef­feries’ sen­tenc­ing, she told him: “I hope you rot in prison the same as you left our Kim to rot in the lake, and we never got to say good­bye.”

“We’ll never ever for­get what’s hap­pened, how it’s hap­pened,” she told the NZME.

“I just say to my­self ‘Why, why, would you take the chil­dren’s mother away from them, just be­cause you were un­happy?’.

“And that’s what it amounts to, be­cause he was un­happy, ‘well I’ll just take you away, get rid of you’ and that’s re­ally quite sad.”

Know­ing the truth now — that Jef­feries mur­dered Kim and lied about it for al­most a year — in­fu­ri­ates Ray­wynne.

“I’m ab­so­lutely dis­gusted for the way he treated the chil­dren. To think he had the cheek to tell the chil­dren their mother had driven off and left them.

“How he got his young daugh­ter to ring her mother’s phone and say ‘Mummy when are you com­ing home? I need you’.”

The cou­ple have cus­tody of the chil­dren for now.

“It’ll be up to the chil­dren if they want to see him.”

They be­lieve the right ver­dict was de­liv­ered when Jef­feries was con­victed in the High Court at Hamil­ton of mur­der­ing his part­ner of 26 years.

Jef­feries said it was man­slaugh­ter, at the last minute claim­ing he killed Kim with a closed-fist back hand blow to her head in the ute, but Ray­wynne doesn’t ac­cept that and an au­topsy was in­con­clu­sive.

Af­ter Kim’s body was found po­lice warned the fam­ily Jef­feries would be ar­rested.

But they were caught of­f­guard on the day be­fore Kim’s fu­neral when po­lice swooped on Jef­feries as the fam­ily walked into a Te Awa­mutu fu­neral home.

Jef­feries was non­cha­lant as he was ar­rested.

“He handed the [car] key to Matt and said ‘Here, take that. They’re ar­rest­ing me’.”

While Jef­feries was in Springhill on re­mand and await­ing trial, Ray­wynne asked him to “do right by the chil­dren” and ad­mit to caus­ing Kim’s death.

“And his cocky lit­tle an­swer was ‘Oh I will, I’ll get out of here and prove I didn’t do it’.

“How could he hold that in for two years? I find that very hard to be­lieve that some­where along the line he hasn’t wanted to say or let it slip.”

Be­cause of Jef­feries’ de­ceit, Kim’s body was so badly de­com­posed from be­ing un­der wa­ter for so long that the fam­ily were not al­lowed to see her.

“So we never got to say good­bye.”

In­stead the chil­dren, Zin­zan, then 13, Mitchell, 11 and Jas­mine, 8, wrote “love and miss you mum” on Kim’s cof­fin.

“It was hard and then to have to tell them he wasn’t com­ing home.”

Af­ter the trial Matt lay awake at night think­ing of his el­dest daugh­ter and her wa­tery grave.

The graphic way in which Kim’s body was dis­cov­ered, in the back seat, miss­ing cloth­ing from the top half of her body and with her rugby jer­sey tied across the back of her neck, was a shock and haunts her par­ents.

“Af­ter hear­ing all the stuff in the court about how Kim was found, about what he’d done to her, eh,” Ray­wynne said.

“That was the hurt­ing part.”

A lov­ing daugh­ter, mum

Ray­wynne de­scribes her daugh­ter as placid, funlov­ing, and a sports fa­natic.

“Kim never had a bad word to say about any­one. She didn’t care what you looked like, she didn’t care how you dressed.”

“Her house was al­ways open to peo­ple,” Matt said. “You couldn’t chal­lenge her at a game of any kind of sport. Even if she’d never played it she’d learn and beat you.”

The for­mer Bay of Plenty ta­ble tennis cham­pion took her chil­dren up moun­tains, kayaking, swim­ming, played touch rugby with them and even jumped in the mud if they wanted her to.

The cou­ple are try­ing hard to keep their grand­chil­dren in­volved in sport the way their mother did but at 70 Ray­wynne says it’s not easy.

“I was look­ing for­ward to spend­ing time with my grand­kids in re­tire­ment, but not like this,” Matt said. Po­lice work

The cou­ple are grateful to po­lice for their de­ter­mi­na­tion to find their daugh­ter’s body.

“When they found Kim, I just had to go and shake their hand,” Matt said of the dozens of divers and po­lice at the Ara­puni boat ramp in June last year.

The po­lice “hung in there to the bit­ter end,” Ray­wynne said.

Waikato Po­lice De­tec­tive Se­nior Sergeant Ross Pat­ter­son said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion team could not dis­cuss the in­quiry in­clud­ing the tech­nol­ogy that en­abled po­lice to track Jef­feries cell­phone GPS data to the lake, be­cause it was still within the ap­peal pe­riod.

Up to 23 staff worked on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion which spanned two years, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Dive Squad, Land Search and Res­cue, the Ea­gle he­li­copter and spe­cial­ist search teams.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion team and po­lice as a whole are sat­is­fied that Mr Jef­feries has been held to ac­count for the death of Ms Rich­mond,” Pat­ter­son told NZME.

“How­ever the re­turn of Kim to her fam­ily — to pro­vide some sense of clo­sure and an un­der­stand­ing of how events un­folded — is the great­est sat­is­fac­tion for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion team.”

Photo / Alan Gib­son

Ray­wynne and Matt Rich­mond pho­tographed at home in Te Puke with the por­trait they keep of their mur­dered daugh­ter Kim.

Photo / Alan Gib­son

Red roses sit un­der­neath a cross erected at the spot where Kim Rich­mond was found in Lake Ara­puni.

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