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Teenage Girls In Court For Retired Schoolteacher's Murder

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Auckland, Dec 20 NZPA - Two teenage girls accused of murdering retired Opotiki schoolteacher John Rowe made brief appearances in court this morning.

A 17-year-old appeared in Auckland District Court and her 15-year-old co-accused appeared in Tauranga Youth Court.

The pair were arrested yesterday and charged with jointly murdering 78-year-old Mr Rowe whose badly beaten body was found in his Opotiki home on November 26. The older girl was granted interim name suppression and the 15-year-old got automatic name suppression because of her age. They were remanded in custody to appear in Tauranga Youth Court on Monday.

A 21-year-old man charged with being an accessory after the fact to the murder of Mr Rowe and conspiring to defeat the course of justice appeared in Whakatane District Court this morning.

He was remanded in custody to next appear in Tauranga District Court on Monday.

Mr Rowe's daughter Wendy, who was in court for the 17-year-old's appearance, said later she was shocked and disgusted with age of the accused.

Earlier Opotiki Mayor John Forbes welcomed the news of the arrests. He said he was shocked but not surprised by the ages of the two murder accused.

"Not when you think about the dysfunction going on. There are some young people going off the rails," he told the New Zealand Herald.

The problem existed in all communities, not just Opotiki, he said.

"We've got to try to get out and see what's happening with these people, and we have to be doing it when they're 10, 11 or 12," he said.

The body of Mr Rowe, who lived alone, was found by his 85-year-old neighbour when he arrived to take him to a medical appointment.

He had been bashed on the head with a blunt weapon.

Inquiry head Detective Inspector Rob Jones said last night the sex and age of those arrested was shocking.

"It must be incredibly distressing both for the community and for the family of Mr Rowe."

Mr Jones said he was not able to discuss when or how police got the breakthrough they needed.

He said there was still a long way to go with the investigation and that police believed people who had information about the case had been stonewalling.

"I was frustrated and did comment that we believed there were close friends and family that were really protecting this group of people," he said.

Mr Jones said the case's high-profile may have put pressure on those people and assisted the investigation.

He said he was aware that Mr Rowe's family were relieved at the news of arrests, but were also "deeply saddened".

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