The Homicide Report is the first publicly searchable database of homicides in New Zealand.
It encompasses 1068 cases involving 591 men, 283 women and 194 young people from January 2004 to March 2019.
The project, which has been years in the making, aims to provide the public with a greater insight into the issue of homicide in New Zealand.
The Homicide Report asks: why do New Zealanders kill one another? Our unprecedented database yields some answers.
In many ways it illuminates the worst impact of some of New Zealand’s biggest social problems.
It shows there is a clear relationship between a neighbourhood’s homicide rate and the level of social and economic deprivation.
And it reveals the extent to which family violence, alcohol and drug abuse contribute to homicidal death in New Zealand.
Half of female homicide victims 18 or older are killed by a partner or ex-partner.
Heidi Welman-Scott died on the front lawn of her North Shore home after a frenzied knife attack by her estranged husband, Brent Scott.
Scott was so determined to kill Welman-Scott, he stabbed her daughter and daughter's boyfriend when they tried to intervene. Both survived serious injuries.
Like many other similar crimes of intimate partner violence, Scott’s attack was not a spontaneous act, but a highly calculated and planned murder.
Scott booked a flight to his native South Africa months in advance and bought the knife four days before sneaking into Welman-Scott’s garage and murdering her as she returned from a night shift at the Southern Cross hospital in North Harbour.
Scott was arrested at Auckland Airport as he attempted to flee.
The Homicide Report analysed 1068 homicides in New Zealand between January 2004 and March, 2019.
The circumstances of Welman-Scott’s death are reflected in dozens of other cases.
Our analysis reveals that every eighth homicide victim in New Zealand is a woman who dies at the hands of a boyfriend, partner, husband or ex-partner. These account for half of female homicide victims 18 or older.
These are often among the most violent homicides. The victims are more likely to be stabbed or asphyxiated than other homicide victims.
Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) data shows that 50 per cent of intimate partner violence homicides are overkill deaths – when a killer inflicts injuries far beyond what is required to kill the victim.
Overkill predominantly occurs in cases in which the victim had separated or was planning to separate from the offender.
There is also a clear tendency for these homicides to be premeditated or planned rather than spontaneous or unintentional killings.
For the other half of adult female victims not killed by a partner or ex-partner there are not as many common factors linking the deaths.
Family violence is still a big contributor with 32 women (11 per cent) dying at the hands of a family member. That means overall family violence was at play in 60 per cent of homicides in which the victim was female and 18 or older.
The next biggest relationship between victim and killer is "stranger", accounting for 15 per cent of the homicides. However, the cause of death in 29 per cent of these cases was a car crash.
Once the car crashes are excluded, there are 29 separate instances of a woman being killed by a stranger in some form of homicidal attack over the 15-year period we analysed. A rate of two per year.
Although they often get a lot of public attention, this type of homicide is a relatively rare occurrence in New Zealand.
One in four adult male homicide victims is killed by a stranger.
A single punch was all it took to end Filipo Sipaia’s life.
Ultimately it wasn’t the punch that killed him, but the fall.
Sipaia was knocked unconscious by Jonathan Ioata after a fight broke out between two groups of friends in Lower Hutt in August, 2011.
He punched Sipaia in the side of the head, he fell, the hard ground broke his fall and he never woke up again, dying in Wellington Hospital the following day.
Like so many other similar deaths in New Zealand, Iota never intended to kill Sipaia, only to hurt him.
In sentencing him to four years and nine months in prison following his manslaughter conviction Justice David Collins described Iota as “… sadly typical of young men in New Zealand, with a poor upbringing, limited education, alcohol issues and with a testosterone fuelled belief they were bulletproof.”
Justice Collins’ sentiments are reflected in our analysis of 1068 homicides.
Men account for a disproportionate number of New Zealand’s homicides victims – 55 per cent in the period of our analysis.
The most common relationship between the men who are victims of homicide and their killers, is not really a relationship at all.
More than one in four (28 per cent) did not know their killer, compared with 15 per cent among women.
Gunshot is the most common cause of death in these homicides – a man dying at the hands of someone they do not know – accounting for 75 (45 per cent) of the victims in these circumstances. This number is inflated somewhat by the 44 adult men killed in the Christchurch terror attack.
Isolating the remaining 122 cases of male on stranger violence in our database, we see that blunt force trauma is a common cause of death, accounting for 40 per cent of victims, 26 per cent were shot and 19 per cent cent were stabbed.
Looking again, just at the cases before the Christchurch shooting, we see that almost half occurred on the weekend and one quarter on a Friday.
In 43 per cent of these cases we were able to determine that alcohol was a factor. This is higher than for all other homicides, where alcohol was a factor 31 per cent of the time.
One in eight victims of homicide in New Zealand is under the age of 15.
The Homicide Report shows yet again the extent of New Zealand’s shameful child abuse record.
Stuff’s Faces of Innocents project highlighted New Zealand’s horrific rate of child homicide and examined the root causes and possible solutions.
For the first time we are able to put these homicides into the context of all homicides in New Zealand.
In all, there have been 135 victims under the age of 15 between 2004 and 2019, one-eighth of all homicides between January 2004 and March 31, 2019.
Overwhelmingly, the killers of these children are the very people who should be looking after them.
While Faces of Innocents focussed on victims aged 14 and under, The Homicide Report also analysed the deaths of 15 to 17-year-old victims. There were 59 homicides of young people in this age bracket, accounting for about six per cent of the victims.
Cheyenne Smith-Grey, a 17-year-old car crash victim, is among those killed. Described as a "charismatic" teenager with a big future in front of her, Smith-Grey was thrown from a car and killed on the outskirts of Hamilton in 2012. The driver, Cyrus Ormsby, was affected by alcohol and was speeding. He was convicted of manslaughter.
Car crashes like these are the single biggest cause of homicides for 15 to 17-year-olds in New Zealand, accounting for 37 per cent.
For car crash victims to be included in The Homicide Report database, someone has to be charged or convicted of manslaughter or murder.
The most common relationship of victim to killer is friend.
Alcohol is a factor in 31 per cent of homicides in New Zealand.
Cody Cribb pleaded with his friend Ricky Vanstone to slow down as he sped along a rural road near Taumarunui one evening in 2011.
Moments later Cribb would be dead, killed instantly after they collided with an oncoming ute.
Earlier that night he and some friends had been drinking at a party. They left with Vanstone, a repeat drink driver who was two-and-a-half times over the legal limit, behind the wheel.
At his sentencing for manslaughter Justice Pamela Andrews read out a letter from Vanstone, in which he said the crash would “hang over me for life”. The judge agreed, saying: "Your driving caused the death of one of your best friends, you will have to live with that for the rest of your life."
Like so many other homicides in New Zealand alcohol contributed to Cribb’s death.
It wasn’t the only factor, the speed Vanstone was driving and the poor condition of his vehicle contributed too. But like many other homicides it is hard to conclude the death would have occurred without the presence of alcohol.
For The Homicide Report we were able to determine that alcohol was a factor in 336 homicides between January 2004 and March 2019, 31 per cent of the total.
The actual figure is likely to be higher because there are many homicides in which we suspected alcohol played a part but were unable to confirm it.
In these 336 homicides alcohol was not always the main or even secondary cause, but in case after case it was there in the background.
It might inflame the tensions at a party, bring out the worst of someone’s violent tendencies or, as in the case of Cribb’s death, cause someone to get behind the wheel drunk and then drive recklessly.
Deaths with characteristics like Cribb’s make up a significant subset of homicides: car crashes in which the victim is under 30, the killer is a friend and alcohol was involved. In fact, we identified 40 cases with these exact characteristics.
Alcohol also touches many of the other issues we have highlighted in The Homicide Report.
When a man dies of blunt force trauma, alcohol is a factor 49 per cent of the time.
When the killer is a stranger, alcohol is involved 49 per cent of the time.
It tragically contributes to people killing those who are close to them. When the victim-killer relationship is "friend", alcohol is a factor 65 per cent of the time.
The homicides which involve alcohol are also skewed significantly towards young people.
Alcohol is a factor in 44 per cent of homicides in which the victim is in their 20s, compared to 29 per cent for victims 30 and older.
Two thirds of gun homicides are committed with .22 calibre rifles or shotguns.
Bradley Lomax met a brutal end on a shingle track near the Waimakariri River near Christchurch in September 2017.
Lomax was taken to the secluded location on the pretext of a methamphetamine deal by the men who would eventually be jailed for his murder – William Gosset and Cody Derek Martin.
Once there, Lomax was shot in the leg with a shotgun, then shot in the head with several rounds from a cut-down .22 rifle, before another shotgun blast hit him in the upper arm and chest.
Lead investigator Detective Inspector Greg Murton said Lomax's death was "as brutal as any killing you will see".
Gosset and Martin both claimed the other man fired the fatal shots.
The victim and his killers were Christchurch underworld figures, described by police as “fairly typical of low to mid-level drug dealers”. Neither of the killers was licensed to own a gun.
Stuff has analysed all 144 gun homicide incidents - a total of 203 victims - that occurred between January 2004 and March 2019.
Many of them share key characteristics of Lomax’s murder.
Most gun homicides in New Zealand are committed with shotguns or .22 calibre rifles.
Our analysis shows 64 per cent of the gun homicide incidents were committed using a .22 or a shotgun. In many cases, these weapons were cut down or modified in some way.
Military-style semi-automatics (MSSAs) accounted for at least 28 per cent of the 204 victims who died in these incidents. The majority of these victims were in the terror attack at two Christchurch mosques on March 15, underlining the deadliness of these weapons, despite incidents involving them being rare.
Only a small minority of those who kill with a gun hold a licence. In about 12 per cent of cases we were able to establish the killer was a licensed gun owner, in 70 per cent we determined they were not.
About 30 per cent of gun homicide incidents had some kind of connection to gangs or the criminal underworld. There appears to have been an upswing in these cases, with a spike of seven shootings with criminal or gang connections in 2018.
Nearly all gun-related homicides were committed by men. Only three were committed by women. Men also account for 80 per cent of the victims of gun violence.