This chapter gives a little of my background, where I grew up and went to school, my hunting skills and what that taught me about patience and failure. Then, as a bushman and about how I eventually ended up in Whangarei and met the woman who later fell on the floor . . .
I am the eldest of two boys and three sisters–in age order: Janet, John, Ann, Charles and Laurel. My parents were Albert and Jean Ingley. Albert arrived in New Zealand from England at the age of three months to live with his grandparents at Waitara until the age of 10 or 11.
At three months of age I was not expected to live. I was found to have polio/meningitis but I survived with the aid of modern drugs and medicine–one of many near misses throughout my life.
I was born in the middle of 1943 at Taumarunui. The heavy snow bound roads in the National Park/Erua area where my father worked were a problem. His chain-equipped Model A Ford was the car of the day and was our most reliable means of transport.
As a four year old we lived at Ruamata where the heather and tussock grows on barren plains and the desolate pumice roads led nowhere. I remember the brumbies on the plains, all colours; the big black river Kura; the snow and isolation; candles and kerosene lamps were all part of country life.
By the age of nine I was at Ongarue learning about the safe use of .22 and 303 rifles in the period of no bullets, no meat–we were only allowed a limit of two shells per day! These limitations were just a part of the skills learned when hunting.
Soon after, my grandfather offered me further ‘education’ after hearing I had shot a nice 160 lb boar with a .22. He muttered, “Bloody fool” then out loud, “Good boy!” What I had interpreted was to stand my ground on matters of determination and patience–the word failure was never mentioned.
Later on, around the age of 14, I was introduced to a stand of totara some of which were five foot through, to cut for posts. I also saw the other end of a six-foot bar of an IEL chainsaw owned by my uncle Don Wilson, a bushman of high esteem and skills. His knowledge and my father’s values on what is right and wrong, remains with me today.
The patience and skills needed to research this book in my undying devotion to finding the answers to this tragic crime, are not without heavy cost. What really keeps me going as a solitary private investigator is the understanding that the truth will eventually come out regardless of whether I supply all the answers or whether my failing health causes more hold-ups.
JOINING THE WORKFORCE
By the time I left school I had already been introduced to the timber industry and over the years worked for Ellis & Burnand (E&B) at Ongarue as an apprentice sawdoctor/machinist under Basil Maud. I was working, by the age of 19, for Fletchers at Tokoroa, various other companies included Borum Bros at Western Bays, Speirs & Jackson at Waipa, Reg Hansen at Orini and became an all-rounder in the industry.
Taking a break during the early 1970s saw a new direction in hunting professionally for Berg’s Game while based at my parents’ farm at Waione near Ongarue.
Much later on I worked overseas for Foxwood Timbers in Solomon Islands and Novac Timbers Vanuatu. I came back home to Te Kuiti in 1986 and have worked for myself ever since.
ARRIVAL AT WHANGAREI
Now back to the 1970s. Eventually, at 7:30am on 2 June 1976 I said goodbye to my parents, jumped into my Mk II Zephyr and headed on my way to a new job to work for a sawmiller by the name of Ivan McMillan, known affectionally as “Mad Mac”.
Upon arriving Whangarei I found the working conditions terrible. The portable mill Ivan owned was cutting kauri, some four foot through. All the good logs were gone and there was mud up to your guts and the whole thing about it was, it kept raining.
Before the end of the month the mill I was shifted to Ruakaka and set up in a quarry where nearby stood the biggest and ugliest line of macrocarpa trees I had ever seen–three deep, 400 yards long. There was a problem though. Nobody wanted them and it still kept raining.
LADY COMPANION WANTED
On arriving home during this period, Mac with a grin and being a man of wit and humour, told me of an advertisement in the local paper that was the answer to all my problems. It said: “Companion Wanted”–and yes he had also made arrangements for me to meet this person who lived not far away on Kamo Road.
The mill had not cut much because of the weather and as I had time on my hands, I decided to visit the promising “lady companion”.Upon arriving at the address I noticed the house was an old villa, made of kauri, maybe 60 years old and in poor repair. It needed re-blocking, repainting–in fact, the works.
A knock on the door was answered by a petite woman with a pleasant voice called Leslee. After introducing ourselves she asked me in for a cup of tea. This was the start of a shaky relationship.
TEARS ON THE CARPET
One day, while watching some contractors putting in a concrete lawn strip, Leslee commented on the price and I noticed the job was not up to standard. A few words in an ear or two found the job back on track at less cost. After that most of the costing for repairs to the house were partly mine.
One day there were tears on the carpet and foot stamping. The price for the re-blocking of the house was on the table and way too high. I decided to get another quote or two. Some contractors I found re-piled houses costed by the block. As a result two contractors applied for the job.
I found out that the house was off the ground which meant plenty of room with no digging for access and I stated this. The job was done within the week with a saving of $600 from the old price.
Suddenly I was becoming a knight in shining armour and it didn’t need Einstein to work out that I couldn’t put a foot wrong.
My next step towards earning more Brownie points was when the stainless sink arrived. The workmen had said it was cut to perfection but it was actually 20 millimetres out on two angles and had no show of fitting properly. I sent it back. There were tears on the carpet again. A note I put on the sink stated no money would be paid until the job was complete. The next time round the sink fitted nicely, thank you very much!
I was on a roll and met the mother, Bernice Howard. She had a craft shop in central Whangarei and the father Allan worked for the hardware firm, Carters.
Although not knowing it at the time, the Howard family became a crucial link in getting to the bottom of this tangled web of deceit and greed. Allan and Bernice lived in a nice old villa on Mill Rd with the grandmother living on the other side of Mill Rd not far way.
NOT TAKING MUCH NOTICE
More about this family later but one day after work I saw a photo in a newspaper on the table of a woman holding a baby. I believe there was a reward but I did not take much notice of it.
Recollections came back at odd times as I tried to remember seemingly insignificant things like noticing Leslee had a top plate for the two centre teeth–she used to roll it around when she got a bit irate, otherwise her teeth are perfect. I asked her about the teeth. The answer was abrupt: “It was an accident!” And that was the last time it was ever mentioned.
Another time I saw a photo of an uniformed nurse on the mantelpiece. Yes, she had done some training as a nurse and did not like it. Funny, I never saw the photo again. There was also another photo of a car, a blue coloured 1970 Corona, that was dismissed with only a brief mention that it was brand new and wonderful to drive.
It is impossible to remember all that was said in this period, when only hearing part of the truth, and it frustrates me now that I didn’t ask more questions or follow up as other related information came to hand later.
Sometimes the days with this woman were very moody. I put it down to her being a widow who had lost her husband in 1974. Never mind, the house was taking shape, the mill was cutting again and I had no idea what the future was going to throw at me.
I also continue to think about mail I saw way back then on the table addressed to another person–Pamela-Ann Howard . . .