RSA Honours Slain Comrades by Karen Phelps
December 8 is firmly etched in the minds of all Mt Wellington-Panmure RSA members. On that day in 2001, club president Bill Absolum and staff members Wayne Johnson and Mary Hobson were tragically slain at the club during an armed hold-up.
On December 8, 2002, the club remembered.
An estimated 500 people attended a memorial service, including RSA members from as far afield as Christchurch.
Also present were Clubs New Zealand national vice-president, Peter Kelly, and Auckland board chairman Ray Good, MP’s, members of the public and police and lawyers involved in trying the two men accused of the murders.
During the service three headstones were unveiled in front of the RSA cenotaph in memory of the three victims. A memorial plaque to be housed in the club’s foyer was also dedicated to those slain and Susan Couch who was severely beaten during the robbery.
“It was such a horrific tragedy that obviously we wanted to make a memorial [to the victims],” says Mt Wellington-Panmure RSA president, Alan Eastwood.
Mr Eastwood says he has had positive comments about the service from the family members of the victims. He thinks the RSA will probably hold a small ceremony each year in remembrance of their fallen comrades.
Office Manager Faye Hjorth, who was initially involved with hiring one of the accused, William Bell, admits she still struggles to cope with the tragedy. She describes the atmosphere at the service as “lovely, solemn and emotional - a time for healing and moving on.”
“Some members had not been back at the club since the tragedy out of respect to the people that died. They’ve obviously now found a bit of closure because they’ve said they will now be able to come back.”