- Laisa Maraia Waka was fatally stabbed just metres from her home in Sockburn, Christchurch, on Saturday
- A 37-year-old man, who was not known to her, has been charged with murder
- The man has interim name suppression and was remanded in custody until July 15 after appearing in court on Monday.
An 11-year-old boy watched as paramedics fought to save the life of a woman who had been stabbed, not knowing it was his mother.
Laisa Maraia Waka, aged in her 50s, was walking along the footpath on Cheyenne St in Sockburn, Christchurch, when she was attacked by a stranger wielding a knife about 4.20pm on Saturday.
She was metres from her home, where her son was waiting excitedly for her to return from working at a rest home in Ilam.
The boy did not witness the attack but saw the aftermath, not knowing the person fatally injured was his mother.
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A 37-year-old man, whose name is suppressed, has been charged with Waka’s murder.
He had been in the care of mental health services prior to Saturday’s incident. It is unclear what conditions he was subject to.
Health officials have refused to comment about the case while it is subject to a police investigation.
At a court hearing on Monday the alleged killer was remanded in custody until his next appearance on July 15.
Judge Mark Callaghan asked for a report under Section 38 of the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003 to assess the man’s fitness to stand trial.
Waka moved to New Zealand from Fiji in 2018 for a better life and was a greatly respected member of the Moraia Fijian Parish, where she sang in the choir.
She has four children, three of whom still live in Fiji.
Fijian community leader and parish member Una Tikoi said people were angry the alleged killer was out in the community, given he was a “sick man”.
She said Waka’s son was “traumatised” by her death and “haunted” by what he’d witnessed.
“He can be talking and laughing, and then he starts crying,” Tikoi said.
Waka’s son and her husband, Nemani Tunidau, were being supported by members of the Fijian community at the parish on Monday.
“We are very distressed,” Tikoi said.
She described Waka as a “loving, caring mother”, saying: “She’s a very joyful person with a huge smile.”
Waka’s body would be taken home to Fiji so “her three children there can pay their last respects”.
Tunidau said on Monday afternoon he was “lost for words” about what had happened.
“I’m still in shock … I’m just devastated.
Tunidau, a carpenter, moved to New Zealand in 2016. He and his wife had applied for residency.
On Monday morning, Waka’s adult daughter posted an emotional tribute online.
The pair hadn’t seen each other for four years, about the time Waka moved to New Zealand. They last spoke on Mother’s Day.
The woman said Waka had been her “role model since day one”. She’d always encouraged her to work hard and be independent and respectful.
“I thank God for giving us a mum that [was] so loving and caring. I’m so grateful to be your daughter. There won’t be a day that goes by that I won’t think of you.
“I can’t begin to express how much I will miss you. There is a huge hole in my heart and I don’t know how I’m going to cope. Your legacy is one that will inspire us all, and we will remember your warmth and love forever.”
Waka also has an adult son who works as a police officer in Fiji.
On Sunday, Canterbury district commander Superintendent John Price described the attack as “horrific, traumatic and random”.
The “senseless act” would have an “incredible impact” on the community, he said.
Waka had caught a bus home after work. She had walked alone about 300 metres from her bus stop when she was stabbed.
Residents and paramedics tried to save her life, but she died at the scene.
Her alleged attacker was arrested a short time later, about 500m away, on Epsom Rd, after a brief search involving police dogs. He was with his brother, who had arrived after the attack and had no part to play in the crime.
A Canterbury District Health Board spokesperson and Health Minister Andrew Little declined to comment on Sunday while the matter was investigated by police.
Police were still piecing together what had happened, and didn’t provide a motive for the attack, Price said on Sunday. However, he confirmed the suspected murder weapon had been recovered.
A Givealittle page has been created for the family. “We’re seeking your kind financial support to help Mr Tunidau support his young family as he adjusts to the changes this tragic loss will bring to his family.”