‘Our hearts will never mend’: Grieving family seek apology from Northland Police

A Northland family say they can’t properly grieve for their daughter, who died in January last year, because of their hurtful interactions with police officers after the tragedy.

Whangārei Heads locals Jennifer and Trevor Roys are heartbroken after their 43-year-old daughter, Natasha, was killed when she was struck by a car that had rolled off the bank above her as she slept in a tent on New Year’s Day.

Natasha, a Northpower GIS technician, had travelled north with friends to Tokerau Beach on the Karikari Peninsula to celebrate the New Year.

However, the Roys have told the Northern Advocate that they cannot grieve for her, claiming they were mucked around and misled by Northland police officers in the months after Natasha’s death.

“I know nothing will ever bring [Natasha] back but her life was worth something, [the police] have made her life as if it was worthless,” Jennifer said.

“It’s bad enough what happened, let alone them making it worse. They could be more compassionate,” Trevor said.

A police spokesperson said a review identified lessons and areas where the investigation could have been improved. However, police were confident officers involved in the investigation acted in an appropriate manner and in good faith.

No charges were laid after Natasha’s death. Police investigated at the time, which included an examination of the vehicle involved. A review into the investigation was also conducted by the serious crash unit detective sergeant in Northland.

The Roys’ issue with the police’s handling of their daughter’s case began even before they knew she had died. Officers, seemingly with incorrect information, arrived at a property next to the Roys’ home early on January 1. Despite encountering Trevor on the driveway, officers left after finding no one at the nearby address without telling the Roys Natasha had died.

It wasn’t until that evening on January 1 that Trevor and Jennifer, who had been packing for an upcoming cruise around Asia, were told of Natasha’s death by the overseeing officer.

The officer, who will be referred to as Officer A, explained he had been trying to contact the Roys all day. Their home phone number was unlisted, and a car was even prepped to go to their Auckland address of six years ago.

The Roys were finally contacted after Officer A was given their number by Natasha’s friend who had been at the scene all day – which Jennifer felt was common sense.

“It was ridiculous, [Officer A] only had to ask one simple question,” she said.

In their conversation that evening, Officer A said he had been with Natasha all day. Jennifer said she later found out this was untrue as Natasha had been transported to Kaitaia in the morning and then to Whangārei.

Weeks later, Jennifer rang Officer A to find out where Natasha’s jewellery and phone were. He said he didn’t know, but would look into it. Officer A would later say Natasha’s possessions had gone to the coroner, which Jennifer found was untrue when she visited the coroner.

In a further call days later, Officer A told Jennifer nothing was wrong with the car that struck Natasha, the case was closed and everything had been sent to the coroner – despite Jennifer having a bill for work done on the handbrake. He also claimed not to have any statements from the scene, also untrue.

“By this time, I knew I was being lied to, well and truly,” Jennifer said.

A short time later, Officer A visited the Roys to return Natasha’s phone, read statements taken from the scene and asked for the bill for work done on the car’s handbrake. When Jennifer asked why Officer A’s story had changed, she says she was ignored.

Officer A then said he would be away for two weeks and that other officers would continue working on the case.

Weeks went by and the Roys heard nothing, until another officer (Officer B) arrived at their home and said how they had been treated was not good enough, allegedly citing a number of procedural errors that had been made at the scene on January 1.

Feeling let down and hurt, the Roys were advised by a counsellor that they could either take their story to the public or further up the police chain of command. Jennifer, who had had strong respect for the police after previously working with them, chose the latter.

After an email was sent to Whangārei/Kaipara police area commander Inspector Marty Ruth, the Roys received a prompt call from Ruth who seemed shocked by their story and promised to look into it.

“I thought, ‘Good, something is going to happen, to sort the lies and what we’ve been put through’,” Jennifer said.

A few weeks later, a sincere and compassionate Ruth visited the Roys and assured them that there would be a meeting with Officer A, along with other police staff, to amend the situation. However, weeks turned into months and the Roys heard nothing.

Around November – almost a year after Natasha’s death, the Roys were told Officer A couldn’t meet as he was recovering from a recent surgery.

However, Jennifer saw an article and photo of Officer A receiving an award.

Enraged, Jennifer then received a call from Ruth, who seemed apologetic, promising to speak with Officer A soon. In January this year, Ruth called the Roys’ and said Officer A would be going through further training as a result of his conduct.

Despite their ordeal, Trevor and Jennifer were very appreciative of Officer B’s efforts, saying he always treated them with respect and courtesy.

However, Jennifer said their journey with police had simply prolonged the agony of her daughter’s death.

“I have always had utmost respect for the police,” she said.

“Now I have no respect, no nothing.”

Through tears, Trevor said he had cried every day last year at any reminder of his “perfect daughter”. Jennifer explained how she hadn’t left Northland until almost a year after Natasha’s death. They also haven’t been able to see their grandchildren in Australia in months, thanks to Covid.

“It’s just bloody not fair, she’s my daughter,” Trevor said.

“It’s just hard to live, it’d be so much easier not to be here but I know [Natasha] wouldn’t want that either,” Jennifer said.

Grateful for the friends who looked out of them, Jennifer was adamant she wanted an apology from Northland Police and advised any other family in a similar situation to protest against such behaviour.

“Our hearts will never mend, I know that. There’s no way I want any family ever to go through what we’ve gone through with the police lies and insincerities,” she said.

The police spokesperson said a debrief with Officer A was delayed because the officer was on an extended period of sick leave for medical reasons.

Extending their sympathies to the Roys, the spokesperson admitted further inquiries could have been made at the time and communication with the family could have been more timely.

However, the spokesperson maintained the investigation was sufficient.

“The police review did identify some learnings and areas where the investigation could have been improved and this has been taken into account for future investigations.

“However police are confident this would not have affected the outcome of the investigation.”

Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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