The Aramoana Massacre
On November 13th, 1990, residents of the small seaside town of Aramoana awoke to a horrific nightmare. One of the town’s residents, in a deranged state, had decided to take his fury out on the people around him. With his rifle he ran riot through the village, shooting helpless individuals whom fate had put in his path. By the time he was shot some 34 hours later, 12 people would have been executed.
David Gray was a recluse, whom his neighbours thought odd, but harmless.
He was an avid reader of warfare, weaponry and survivalist literature who had amassed a cache of firearms and ammunition. His mental and physical state in the six months prior to the tragedy had deteriorated rapidly although this was only appreciated in hindsight. He lived in a small crib in Aramoana and was on the unemployment benefit.
His paranoia and fanatical ideas finally came to a head on 13th November.
At around 8 pm Gray and his next door neighbour, Garry Holden, were heard arguing. Rifle shots were heard and Gray entered the Holdens’ residence where he shot at Chiquita Holden (Garry’s daughter) wounding her. Chiquita ran out of the house to raise the alarm. She discovered her father’s body face down in the yard. She fled to friend Julie Ann Bryson’s house. Mrs Bryson rang 111 and then took Chiquita in her van back to her house knowing Chiquita’s sister, Jasmine, and Julie Ann Bryson’s daughter, Rewa, were there still, having hidden when Gray shot at Chiquita.
The Holden’s house was on fire and Gray was standing outside. He fired on the pair as they passed by in the van. The local men in the town were alerted to the fire and came to see what was going on. Most will never forget the sight of Gray with a balaclava rolled up over his head and a rifle in his hands as he took shots at any moving targets. Vanessa Percy was gunned down as she ran screaming down the street. Gray then shot and killed two boys, Leo and Dion Percy. Their sister, Stacey, suffered severe wounds to her abdomen. All three children were in the back of their father’s ute on their way home, when their father had seen the fire. Ross Percy, their father, and Alec Tali were shot and killed near the ute.
Gray entered the Jamieson residence and killed locals Vic Crimp and Tim Jamieson. Jimmy Dickson was killed as he looked for his dog and his wife who went looking for him watched in horror as David Gray shot Chris Cole who was out walking. She managed to crawl for help but unfortunately help had come too late. Chris Cole died in hospital.
Sergeant Stewart Guthrie, from Port Chalmers police, and Russell Anderson, the local Fire Chief, with sirens blazing and an ambulance following, approached Aramoana. Fire engines were on alert and had to remain a certain distance away until the gunman was put under restraint. They split up and began to take in the dreadful scene and to locate Gray. During this time Sergeant Stewart Guthrie was shot and killed by Gray.
The Armed Offenders Squad had been called in and they surrounded Aramoana. All care had to be used as Gray had a high powered rifle with telescopic sights and was shooting at anything that moved. They moved slowly and when the dawn came up the next day the realisation started to hit New Zealanders of what was taking place. In the dark, early the next morning, many brave police officers slowly moved in. Gray was still at large and after claiming thirteen victims had to be considered one of our worst murderers of all time.
In Bill O'Brien’s book, “Aramoana - The True Story” he describes the many heroic acts that the police and residents performed. An anti terrorist unit was in the area helping to co-ordinate the scene. One by one the squad entered and searched houses still not finding Gray. Finally he was located and after tear gas was thrown in, he came out of the house shooting, yelling “Kill Me”. Five shots hit Gray and he was killed. The siege was finally over.
This had taken 34 hours and the dedication of the police and Armed Offenders squad, a number of whom received Gallantry Awards from the Queen.
Rewa Bryson and Jasmine Holden’s bodies were found in the burnt out Holden home. Thirteen people lost their lives and a town lost it’s peace and serenity. David Gray is now believed to have been schizophrenic or otherwise mentally disordered - but for whatever reason, he became one of New Zealand’s most horrific mass murderers.