Wellington: The man decapitated during a homicide in Lower Hutt was suspected to be involved in the sale of synthetic cannabis.
Frank Tyson, 71, died in a block of flats on Jackson St, in the suburb of Petone, on Friday night. A neighbour told Stuff on Monday morning there was a gathering at the apartment at the time.
New Zealand police are investigating the death of a 71-year-old man whose head was thrown from this block of units in Petone.Credit:Stuff
Detective Inspector Shane Cotter would not speculate on any potential motive for the killing on Monday, but confirmed Tyson was decapitated, and neither he nor a 41-year-old man arrested on Saturday were gang members.
A witness to the homicide's aftermath, who did not want to be named, told Stuff that gang members and associates were in attendance at a gathering at the apartments.
They had planned to rob the victim of homemade synthetic drugs and about $10,000 cash he had made from selling them, the witness said.
The victim dropped a box of alcohol and was heard repeating the line, "this is the last thing I have to do before I die", the witness said.
Police, including armed officers, arrived soon after.
A 41-year-old man was arrested on what police say were unrelated charges of causing wilful damage and drug possession. He is due to reappear in the Hutt Valley District Court on Tuesday.
The witness, who did not want to be identified, said she had talked to police, who had told her her version of events was correct.
She said she was told the decapitation happened in the "old school" way.
"[The victim] seemed like a really depressed person but he was nice to other people … He was really kind."
A woman who lives in the area – known locally as "the Bronx" – said Tyson would drive people to score marijuana and synthetics for a small price.
She said there was tension between Tyson and a man who had recently moved into the neighbouring apartment block.
The man had been beaten up by gang members the day before Tyson's death, she said.
A neighbour said Tyson was a "good bloke" who would "drive a ghetto taxi, for a price."
The man said Tyson had lived at the flats for about 20 years, and was well-known for dealing synthetics.
"What happened to him comes with the territory but apart from that he was a good bloke.
"I couldn't have wished that on my worst enemy – even though he was making money he didn't deserve to die like that."
Hutt City Councillor and Petone resident Tui Lewis, who knew Tyson, said neighbours had raised with her that he was involved "somehow" in the sale of synthetic cannabis out of the Housing New Zealand property.
"The sad thing is, if it wasn't Frank somebody else is going to be doing it."
Tyson was a vocal member of the community, she said.
"He'd been part of the community for more than 20 years. While I've been on council, Frank was never afraid to say this is what we need, this is what we can do and Frank wasn't afraid to speak up. He always had a strong point of view.
"The last time I was with Frank we started a community stream clean. There's a beautiful historic stream, Te Mome stream that runs behind the apartments and he was there and he contributed to the Facebook page, and was keen to have all his photos up … he'd go overboard with his photos."
Lewis said she did not think Tyson was a substance abuser, and was "definitely never" gang-affiliated.
She thought he would have sold drugs to make ends meet.
Correction: This story previously contained information from a witness that we now understands to be incorrect, and the story has been amended to reflect this.
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