Life in ‘the Bronx’

Mur­der: ‘‘It’s ab­so­lutely nor­mal there. They talk about it for a few days, then it’s gone.’’

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - Tom Hunt re­ports.

‘It’s a nice area,’’ she says, duck­ing un­der the po­lice tape that has been in place so long it is start­ing to feel like fur­ni­ture. It’s close to the beach and it’s a good neigh­bour­hood, ‘‘till all this stuff hap­pened’’.

That stuff was a grisly be­head­ing just up­stairs from her a week ear­lier, then re­ports of the head be­ing car­ried around in a plas­tic bag.

But it wasn’t just that in­ci­dent that cast a pall of dark­ness over the area of Hous­ing NZ flats at the end of Jack­son St that lo­cals have aptly named the Bronx.

There were two other re­cent killings, both with links to the Mon­grel Mob, which thrives in and around these three­storey con­crete blocks even if the Gov­ern­ment land­lord says no gang members are ten­ants there.

There is the some­times-stench that rises from Te Mome

Stream – or Dead

Man’s Arm to lo­cals – that barely flows be­hind the flats and till re­cently fea­tured on a na­tion­wide top 10 worst-of-the-worst con­tam­i­na­tion list.

‘‘Our door is al­ways get­ting kicked in,’’ the woman, who doesn’t want to be named, men­tions non­cha­lantly. Her friend comes out from the po­lice cor­don of­fer­ing home bak­ing.

Else­where, an­other woman finds lit­tle nice to say about the Bronx, which she moved out of the day af­ter a mur­der.

She wants to go by the name Monique rather than her real name – she doesn’t want her for­mer neigh­bours know­ing where she is now.

Au­gust 23, 2013, was her last day there. The day be­fore Sio Mata­lasi, 25, died af­ter a bul­let from a cut­down ri­fle tore through his torso. Mob members Shane Pierre Har­ri­son, 44, and Dillin Pakai, 19, were later found guilty of his mur­der.

‘‘When I walked over, he was still alive [and re­ceiv­ing CPR],’’ Monique said. Soon af­ter Mata­lasi’s part­ner came across the hor­ror scene.

‘‘I moved out the next day. I left all my stuff there and I left,’’ Monique said.

That same year, Jes­sica Lee Keefe, 30, was found not guilty of the mur­der or man­slaugh­ter of her vi­o­lently abu­sive Mon­grel Mob mem­ber part­ner Sean Verma in nearby Hous­ing NZ flats. A jury heard that, as Verma lay dy­ing on the ground his dy­ing words to a neigh­bour were, ‘‘She stabbed me, dog’’.

But things weren’t al­ways so grim. About six years ear­lier Monique had asked Hous­ing NZ to move in – specif­i­cally to those same flats where a friend of her’s lived.

‘‘They moved me in that day . . . I found out quickly what it was like.’’

She re­mem­bered find­ing a 3-year-old boy sleep­ing in the pub­lic stair­well at 1am. She knew where he lived. She had heard the shout­ing, the ar­gu­ing, the drunk­en­ness that night and knew why he wasn’t home.

She took him in for the night and in the morn­ing re­turned him to an­other fam­ily mem­ber. At 8.30am that morn­ing she saw the boy’s mother, who didn’t know her son had been miss­ing.

‘‘I think she was still a bit drunk,’’ Monique said.

Ar­gu­ments, fights and drug deals in pub­lic ar­eas were par for the course, as was see­ing rag­ing ar­gu­ments be­tween par­ents while young chil­dren screamed hope­lessly for them to stop.

‘‘Ev­ery night I had this thing, is this the night my door gets kicked in?’’

Heavy metal doors to block en­try to all but res­i­dents on the ground floor of each block were of­ten de­stroyed, as were se­cu­rity cam­eras. The stench from the stream – if it can be called that – per­me­ated the place.

‘‘It gets into your flat, it gets into your wash­ing.’’

She reck­oned all sorts of weapons – ma­chetes, base­ball bats – had been thrown in that grey-brown wa­ter.

There is an irony that ly­ing on the other side of that same pu­trid wa­ter lies the pri­vate Shan­don Golf Club where a year’s mem­ber­ship costs $1335. Safe to say there are also a few Titleist golf balls in there among the ma­chetes.

Monique be­lieved Hous­ing NZ was in­ten­tion­ally plac­ing Mon­grel Mob members in the flats, as well as turn­ing a blind eye when they moved in with­out per­mis­sion.

These days in a nicer house, Monique was upset but not sur­prised to hear Frank Tyson, her one-time neigh­bour, had been killed. It was just an­other day at the Bronx. ‘‘It is ab­so­lutely nor­mal there. They talk about it for a few days, then it is gone.’’

Hous­ing NZ, in a state­ment, said no known gang members were ten­ants at the com­plex.

Chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Paul Com­mons said last week’s death was a shock to ten­ants and the neigh­bour­hood.

There was lit­tle he could say about the killing, as there was a homi­cide case go­ing through the courts, but he said staff were sup­port­ing res­i­dents.

‘‘What I would like to em­pha­sise is our Jack­son St ten­ants are a strong, re­silient group. It’s a com­mu­nity where the ten­ants, along with our help, are sup­port­ing each other through this. They’re also re­spect­ful of each other and their wider com­mu­nity.’’

Spruce up

A group of Lower Hutt state homes, in­fa­mous for crime and killings, in­clud­ing a de­cap­i­ta­tion, are about to get some tax­payer love.

Hous­ing New Zealand has con­firmed the three-storey apart­ments it owns at the eastern end of Jack­son St, Pe­tone, are about to get an over­haul.

‘‘All the homes at Jack­son St meet the nec­es­sary re­quire­ments un­der the Res­i­den­tial Te­nan­cies Act,’’ chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Paul Com­mons said.

‘‘Like many of our homes and com­plexes, Jack­son St is an older com­plex in need of up­grad­ing.

‘‘We’ve been as­sess­ing the site in prepa­ra­tion for a com­plete up­grade and we can con­firm work will com­mence next year which will pro­vide bet­ter qual­ity homes for ten­ants and their fam­i­lies.’’ They are the same flats where Frank Tyson was de­cap­i­tated last week. In 2013, Sio Mata­lasi was shot dead by Mon­grel Mob members nearby and in the same year Jes­sica Lee Keefe, 30, was found not guilty of the mur­der or man­slaugh­ter of her vi­o­lently abu­sive Mon­grel Mob mem­ber part­ner Sean Verma.

The re­de­vel­op­ment was part of a pro­gramme to up­grade 75 per cent of Hous­ing NZ prop­er­ties in the next 20 years.

Hous­ing NZ was ‘‘ex­plor­ing op­tions to re­me­di­ate’’ the cur­rent units to bring them up to a mod­ern stan­dard. ‘‘Our pref­er­ence is to al­ways try and work around our ten­ants with re­me­di­a­tion work. ‘‘Where this is not pos­si­ble we work closely with our ten­ants to ensure that they are ap­pro­pri­ately re­housed.’’

It was not yet clear what the cost would be. Lo­cal Labour list MP Ginny An­der­sen un­der­stood that, as well as re­fur­bish­ing what was there, Hous­ing NZ may build a new block on va­cant land.

The area had ‘‘a lot of high needs peo­ple in one place’’ and she of­ten heard re­ports of in­tim­i­da­tion, noise, drugs, al­co­hol, and as­sault.

With the re­fur­bish­ment, she was ea­ger to see a good mix of fam­i­lies and sin­gles as well as things such as a play­ground and com­mu­nity cen­tre to bring a bet­ter sense of com­mu­nity.

Hutt South MP Chris Bishop said the re­fur­bish­ment was part of a plan rolled out by the Na­tional gov­ern­ment. ‘‘These flats are some of [Hous­ing NZ’s] hous­ing stock. They are old, de­crepit and well over­due for an up­grade.

‘‘Hope­fully it will change the cul­ture.’’

KEVIN STENT/STUFF

Frank Tyson A for­mer res­i­dent of the Jack­son St Hous­ing lived in fear of her door be­ing kicked in. A warn­ing no­tice be­side the foul-smelling Te Mome Stream, which the lo­cals call Dead Man’s Arm.

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