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Couple may have invited Bremner in, whānau say

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 8/10/2016

An elderly couple found dead alongside the body of fugitive Ross Bremner may have welcomed him into their home as a stranger, their whānau says.

The bodies were found on Friday night at the couple's rural property in Kinohaku on the Kawhia Harbour, near Tahāroa. Police said the three had been formally identified as Mr Bremner, 34, Mona Waikoko Tuwhangai, 82, and Maurice Raymond O'Donnell, 72.

Mr Bremner was wanted for a double knife attack on his parents on 4 October, in which his mother Clare, 60, was killed and his father Keith, 64, left critically injured. Police were told about the deaths in Kinohaku on Friday evening, but believed all three died several days ago, Ms Hassan said.

Police are still at the Kinohaku property where the bodies were found. © RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly Police are still at the Kinohaku property where the bodies were found. Family did not know Bremner

Family members gathered in persistent drizzle to perform a karakia as the couples' bodies were removed from the homestead yesterday evening.

Earlier, they turned their backs on a hearse as it took Mr Bremner's body away. The family was adamant - and said they wanted it to be known - that none of them knew Mr Bremner, and believed the couple had never met him either. A grand-niece, Donna Tuwhangai, said the family believed Mr Bremner may simply have shown up and been invited in by the pair out of kindness. "[They're] among the most generous people you've ever met - their door is never locked."

At a news conference in Hamilton yesterday, Waikato Acting Superintendent Naila Hassan said Ms Tuwhangai and Mr O'Donnell were not related to Mr Bremner, and it was not known if Mr Bremner knew them. "We do not know why Ross Bremner travelled to this place." Family and friends of Ms Tuwhangai and Mr O'Donnell kept vigil outside the gate yesterday.

A local man who knew the couple, Allan Smith, said once the news spread, people had wanted to come down to show their support. The couple's bodies had been taken to Auckland for post-mortem, relative Nick Tuwhangai said.

The whānau was hoping they could be returned as soon as possible for a double tangi.

Mona Tuwhangai was part of a large and well-known King Country whānau and was a descendant of Ngāti Maniapoto leader Henare Tuwhangai, family said.

People place flowers at the entrance to the Kinohaku property where three bodies were found, including that of Ross Bremner. © RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly People place flowers at the entrance to the Kinohaku property where three bodies were found, including that of Ross Bremner. Search for Ross Bremner defended

When asked, Ms Hassan was unsure whether there had been a police force in the area around Tahāroa over the past three days, before the discovery of the bodies. But while police had been focusing on Otorohanga, there had been a "very broad" search for Mr Bremner with teams across Waikato, Ms Hassan said.

"We had priorities during the investigation that we attended to that I believe we attended to correctly and in the right order." 

Look back at the live stream of the news conference in Hamilton:

As part of their search for Mr Bremner, police had asked for sightings of a 2003 silver Holden Vectra with registration BGP561. The car was found at the property and police said yesterday they had not yet confirmed with neighbours the possibility it had been to the property several times before the bodies were found.

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