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Tributes Flow For Porirua Police Officer

Tributes Flow For Porirua Police Officer

11 July 2008

Messages of sympathy including flowers, home baking and other food, cards and emails from the public are flowing into Porirua Police Station today following the death on duty overnight of Sergeant Derek Wootton.

Superintendent Pieri Munro, Wellington Police District Commander, and Inspector John Spence, Kapiti Mana Area Commander, sincerely thank the public for their support since news of the overnight tragedy unfolded.

"The events which led to our officer's death have stunned his family, friends, police colleagues and our community," Superintendent Munro said. "Police and Derek's family are deeply touched by the sentiments expressed from members of the public."

Inspector Spence said Sergeant Wootton, 52, was hugely respected by police colleagues and the Porirua community. "We are a caring community. The messages and practical offers of support, not only from people in Porirua but elsewhere in New Zealand, are appreciated by Derek's family and police."

Commissioner Howard Broad and Deputy Commissioner Lyn Provost have also met with Sergeant Wootton's family and police colleagues today.

"A day like today brings home to us all the vulnerability of police officers as they go about their work protecting the public," Commissioner Broad said. "There is a sense of shock and grief throughout New Zealand Police, but also a feeling of solidarity, as family, friends and colleagues deal with the loss of an officer who lost his life during the course of duty."

A 32-year-old man has appeared in the Porirua District Court today in relation to the events overnight. The man, whose name has been suppressed, has been remanded in custody until 15 July. He has been charged with aggravated robbery; dangerous driving; dangerous driving causing death; failing to stop and kidnapping. Further charges cannot be ruled out.

Specialist road crash and other investigators have been at the fatality scene in Dimock Street, Titahi Bay for most of the day. Forensic examinations and multi faceted investigations including Coronial and police investigations will however take some time.

Superintendent Munro said the investigations are complex and require inquiries and statements to be taken from many people, including civilian and police witnesses.

Superintendent Munro said Police Central Communications advised that the black Prelude had been taken after a serious assault about 2.30am near the Tawa Swimming Pool.

A 16-year-old youth was a passenger in the Prelude and had been prevented from getting out before it was driven off.

Police inquiries to date indicate that Police patrols were alerted at 2.41am to look for the black Honda Prelude. Officers responded to speak with the assault victim and Prelude owner who required hospital treatment for facial injuries.

The Prelude was sighted by a police patrol in Awarua Street at 2.44am. A pursuit started which lasted about four minutes. It is alleged the Prelude drove at speed into the city centre, looped back and then drove north along Titahi Bay Road - known locally as The Causeway before turning into Dimock Street where the vehicle was spiked.

Sergeant Wootton was positioned in Dimock Street and was able to lay out the spikes. Tragically he was struck and died at the scene despite CPR efforts by police colleagues and ambulance officers. The vehicle stopped about 300m away and the 32-year-old driver fled but was captured not far from the car.

Police are however appealing for people to contact Porirua Police on 04 238 1401 if they witnessed a black Honda Prelude driving at speed in Elsdon, Porirua and Titahi Bay between 2.40am and 3am.

Sergeant Wootton joined New Zealand Police in March 1994 and was recently presented with his 14 year Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

Superintendent Munro described Sergeant Wootton as a solid, reliable and energetic police officer who at 52 was still doing the hard yards on the frontline, working as he was on night shift overnight, leading his section.

He was a milkman and builder before he joined the police and was first posted to Porirua as a constable on his graduation in August 1994.

He was promoted to a Sergeant's position in Upper Hutt in 2003 and returned to Porirua as a frontline sergeant in 2006.

"Derek had a special affinity with young police officers, and was a mentor to the constables on his section," Superintendent Munro said.

Sergeant Wootton's family have many links with police. His partner Bronwyn Hewitt is a nonsworn dispatcher at the Central Communications Centre where she has worked for many years.

One of his brothers, Dave, is a police officer in Wellington. His mum Cath has been a volunteer at the Porirua Community Policing Base for 18 years.

Sergeant Wootton's brother John is well known in rugby circles. He and Derek shared their love of the game through the Norths Rugby Club.

Support systems are in place to help Sergeant Wootton's family and police colleagues.


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