RAURIMU, MANAWATU. Saturday the 8th of February 1997. 9.05am. Stephen Anderson walks into the kitchen holding a 12 gauge sawn-off shotgun and carrying a shotgun cartridge in his mouth. His father Neville immediately sprang from his seat and approached the gunman “What are you doing… Give it to me Stephen”. Neville grabbed hold of the barrel of the shotgun, attempting to wrestle it out of his son’s hands when Stephen accused his father of being wicked, “You’re the devil incarnate.” BANG! The shotgun fired, fatally injuring Neville Anderson. Stephen’s rampage had begun.
Visit www.truecrimenz.com for additional information on this case. Including a transcript of this episode, with supporting pictures, sources, and credits.
Hosted by Jessica Rust
Written and edited by Sirius Rust
Music sourced from:
“Low Droning Synth Bass”, “The House in the Woods is No Longer Kind”, “Synth Sequence and Vocal Pad”, “Percussion Hits from Filtered Noise”, “A Love Song For Someone I Once Knew”, “Coards of Banada”, “Sorry, I Meant to Say That You Are Eating A Cheeseburger”
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
“Clean Soul”, “Day of Chaos”, “Malicious”, “Parting of the Ways – Part 1”
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0
The podcast version is the intended way to consume this story but we make a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.
Case 18: The Raurimu Rampage
Raurimu, which translates to ‘Leaves of the Red Pine’ is a small township found 34km south-east of Taumarunui. Raurimu began its life as a railway construction camp in the early 20th century during the construction of the main trunk railway line between Wellington and Auckland.
The steep terrain between Raurimu and National Park ment a direct rail route was impossible. The solution was the line would spiral around upon itself with the aid of tunnels and bridges, the finished product in 1908 became known as the ‘Raurimu Spiral’.
Post construction of the spiral, the township of Raurimu became more permanent when the tents of the construction camp were replaced by wooden buildings. The township’s economy was supported by a population of 2,000, mostly farmers and the workers at the local sawmills.
In December 1925, Raurimu was devastated by a fire that swept through and destroyed almost all of the commercial district. While rebuilding occured, the population declined over the next five decades. The police station closed in 1957. By the end of the 1960s the closure of the railway station and the last remaining sawmills only further ravaged the township’s economy.
By the 1980s, due to its proximity to Mount Ruapehu and the cheap real estate, the township of Raurimu was rebranded as a holiday town becoming a popular destination for skiers and those just looking for some time away.
However, the history of Raurimu was forever stained on the 8th of February 1997, when an idyllic summer morning became a nightmare after a vile massacre unfolded in the small rural township. The horrific events of that day are forever remembered as ‘The Raurimu Rampage’.
PART I: ‘HAPPY MEMORIES’
Stephen Lawrence Anderson was born sometime in 1973 to married couple Neville and Helen Anderson in the capital city, Wellington. Stephen grew up in the suburb of Khandallah and described his relationship with his parents as loving and supportive, “I think as a child I had the perfect conditions. I had two parents that loved me. We lived in some beautiful homes in a good suburb of Wellington. I had everything I needed.”
In the mid-1980s, Stephen’s father Neville purchased some land four hours away in the small township of Raurimu in the Manawatu. On the spot, he built a family holiday lodge to act as a holiday home for his small family.
Stephen and parents spent many long weekends in Raurimu. Stephen and his father would trek into the New Zealand bush and experience the great outdoors, “The way we bonded was going out into the outdoors. I’ve got really happy memories from a really young age of going into the New Zealand bush and camping out and cooking over an open fire, doing a bit of hunting when I got a bit older.”
Stephen’s hunting trips began a love of firearms. Weapons were a regular part of Stephen’s life growing up as a hunter and outdoorsman. When Stephen had reached the legal age, he obtained his own firearms licence and acquired his own weapons. One such weapon was a sawn-off shotgun that was stored at the Raurimu lodge in an old violin case.
As Stephen matured into his teen years, life became more confusing and troubling, “I think I was coming down with depression and I didn’t know how to label it as such. All I knew was the world didn’t seem a very friendly place and I didn’t like myself, and so that was a tough time in my life. So that’s kind of where things that I’m consciously aware of probably started to get on a slippery slope.” What Stephen was dealing with was the onset of schizophrenia; which usually manifests in men in their late teens to early-20s.
Post high school, Stephen trained as a dental technician but his troubling mental state was getting the best of him. Stephen began self medicating with cannabis to treat his disturbed thoughts. This treatment only worsened his troubled mind and Stephen was arrested multiple times for ‘disorderly behaviour’.
Research has found that marijuana worsens the psychotic symptoms in sufferers of schizophrenia. The main psychoactive compound in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, known more commonly as THC. THC works in schizophrenia patients only to loosen their grip on reality further blurring the lines between what is real and what is ‘in their head’.
In 1995, Stephen Anderson was admitted to the mental health ward of the Wellington hospital. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and prescribed antipsychotic medication, “My compliance with the treatment was sporadic. Sometimes I took it and sometimes I didn’t… I think my parents were monitoring my use and I was pretending I was using the treatments, but… I couldn’t tolerate the side effects of the pills.”
In the following years, Stephen continued to use cannabis and took his antipsychotics sporadically, leading him down a path with a tenuous grip on reality.
TRIP TO RAURIMU
In late 1996 Stephen’s father Neville was diagnosed with leukaemia forcing him to retire from his career as a builder at 60. With the extra time on his hands, Neville organised a trip away to the old family lodge in Raurimu with some close friends.
Neville invited his good friend, 63-year-old retired office manager Anthony McCarty and his wife Isabel to join his family at the cabin. Also brought along were the Andersons neighbours Gordon and his wife, 52-year-old Andrea Brander. Finally the Andersons invited friends of the family Raymond and Eve Spencer.
Neville’s wife Helen invited her coworker Michelle Churton who brought along her boyfriend, 38-year-old computer analyst Stephen Hanson. Tagging along with Michelle and Stephen was their friend, 28-year-old computer analyst John Matthews.
The ‘holiday getaway’ came in early February 1997, Neville and Helen both thought that their 24-year-old son Stephen’s mental health was not in a place in which he should be left alone.
The group of twelve arrived at the Andersons family lodge sometime in early February. Helen Anderson openly apologised to the other nine guests for their son Stephen’s presence, “’I’m sorry we had to bring Stephen. He’s been such a problem to us the last few days. We couldn’t leave him at home to feed the cat.” Nevertheless the first couple of days were relatively uneventful.
However, Stephen Anderson did exhibit behaviour at odds with reality; rambling about beastiality, demons and being in danger from these forces. Then on the 4th of February 1997, Helen found her son in his bedroom cleaning the sawn-off shotgun from out of the violin case:
HELEN ANDERSON: “What are you doing with the gun Steve?”
STEPHEN ANDERSON: “They’re coming after me,”
HELEN ANDERSON: “Don’t be silly, there’s nobody coming after you.”
PART II: ‘THEY’RE COMING AFTER ME’
The following is a detailed description of one of NZ’s most extreme and grotesque massacres. The following content is graphic by the nature of the crime and will be distressing for most people.
Please consider your own mental wellbeing before listening ahead.
8 FEBRUARY 1997
Saturday the 8th of February 1997. 9am. A party of eleven congregates around the breakfast table at the Andersons family lodge. The party was made of the hosting couple, Neville and Helen Anderson, and joining them were four other couples: friends Anthony and Isabel McCarty, their neighbours Gordon and Andrea Brander, Anderson family friends Raymond and Eve Spencer and Helen’s co-worker Michelle Churton and her partner Stephen Hanson — concluding the headcount was Michelle and Stephen’s good friend John Matthews. Absent was the Anderson’s 24-year-old son Stephen.
A couple of minutes later, the conversations at the breakfast table were interrupted by Stephen Anderson as he entered the lodge, Raymond Spencer described the moment, “I took one look at him and saw a strange glazed look in his eyes… there was something disturbing about the way he had glanced at us, and then just stared at a point in front of him… He was standing there all alone, perfectly still, he had not shaved for a number of days and was dressed all in black. He muttered something which I could not understand.”
Helen Anderson, Stephen’s mother also remembers the moment in time, “He just came into the room with quite a stern look on his face, then he said something about having had sex with a cat and dog, I was quite horrified. I got up immediately and suggested he go into the bathroom and have a wash, then go and have some breakfast.”
Saturday the 8th of February 1997. 9.05am. Stephen Anderson walks into the kitchen holding a 12 gauge sawn-off shotgun and carrying a shotgun cartridge in his mouth. His father Neville immediately sprang from his seat and approached the gunman “What are you doing… Give it to me Stephen”. Neville grabbed hold of the barrel of the shotgun, attempting to wrestle it out of his son’s hands when Stephen accused his father of being wicked, “You’re the devil incarnate.” BANG! The shotgun fired, fatally injuring Neville Anderson. Stephen’s rampage had begun.
Chaos ensued. The table erupted in panic. The group began running for their lives. Helen Anderson escaped through an open window. Stephen took aim at the remaining guests, firing two more times, murdering his neighbour Andrea Brander and John Matthews. Stephen Hanson ran to the phone; dialing 111. Stephen got through and was describing the carnage to the police constable on the end of the line, when suddenly Stephen Anderson began approaching, aiming his loaded shotgun at him. Stephen Hanson begged for his life but the gunman was uncaring, firing at the man begging for mercy. The policeman on the end of the line heard the pleas before the sharp gunshots, followed by a haunting silence.
Raymond and Eve Spencer ran for their lives out the front door towards the driveway, Eve was injured as a slug penetrated her elbow as the couple exited the scene. Raymond and Eve were running down the driveway when Stephen Anderson emerged approximately 12m behind firing his shotgun. A slug hit Raymond and penetrated the side of his face, Raymond hit the ground as did his wife Eve, “Because my glasses were knocked off my head I knew that I had been hit. In a split second I realised that my only chance was to pretend I was dead, and before I hit the ground face down, I projected my chest forward with my arms outstretched. This was to assume a pose like that of a person who had been shot from behind… As I hit the ground, I turned my head to the right (the side wounded), let my body go limp, and stared lifeless and unblinking without breathing. Eve called out softly: ‘are you alright?’ I was lying on the other side of a tall Toi Toi bush, about two metres away from where she was. Though I could not see her, I replied, ‘be still and quiet’.”
The couple lay motionless pretending to be dead — hoping the gunman’s attention would be drawn elsewhere. It was, friends of the Anderson family Anthony and Isabel McCarty became Stephen’s next targets as they also dashed for safety outside. Stephen took aim once more, firing twice, the first shot penetrating Isabel in the back, she collapsed the ground and lost consciousness. The second shot hit Anthony McCarty, fatally killing him. When Isabel McCarty regained consciousness, she was greeted with the sight of her recently murdered husband, “He had blood pouring out of the side of his head and on to me. It was obvious that he was dead….it was as if someone had turned a tap on, it was pouring out.”
Hearing this massacre unfold was Michelle Churton who had taken refuge in a nearby bush to hide from the gunman. She had stuffed a t-shirt in her mouth to muffle her terrified whimpers unaware her partner lay dead inside. She described the haunting sounds at a later date, “There appeared to be many shots going off continuously… There was a lot of screaming…” Michelle cowered in the bush hoping the carnage would cease.
Stephen had ‘picked off’ everyone at the lodge, with seemingly no further targets; Stephen Anderson went looking for new prey.
THE VAN DE WETERINGS
Hendrick Van de Wetering was born 1946 in the Netherlands. ‘Henk’ was drawn to the Land of the Long White Cloud and migrated to NZ in his teen years. Ending up in Auckland, Henk met his wife Helena and started a family, having two sons, Rodney and David.
Dreaming of a life more simple and wanting to escape ‘the big smoke’ of Auckland city the Van de Weterings travelled south in 1982 to their new home in Raurimu located next to the Anderson family lodge.
Saturday the 8th of February 1997. The morning of. Now in their 50s, Henk and Helena Van de Wetering were being visited by their adult son Rodney; joining Rod was his wife Kim and their two children — two-year-old Troy and 8-month-old Becky.
The Van de Weterings were preparing for a 100km journey north-east to watch some boat racing at Lake Taupo.
9.05am. Henk sat on the computer, Helena was preparing breakfast and Kim was getting the kids up and ready for the big day. Rod was outside preparing the car for the journey to Taupo when he heard gunshots pepper the peaceful Saturday morning soundscape. Rod thought that it was a bit inconsiderate to be firing guns this early in the morning, but didn’t think too much more of it. The tension was elevated when shortly after the gunshots Rod observed their neighbour Helen Anderson scaling their adjoining fence.
Helen attempted to communicate the carnage she had witnessed at the hands of her son, “She was rather hysterical … she said there’d been some shootings, that some people were dead.”
Rod and his father Henk rushed over to the Anderson lodge, they witnessed the traumatic aftermath of the massacre — dead scattered the front yard with some of the wounded limping down the driveway, “My father went over to help them and told me to go back home and ring the police”. As this was happening, Rod’s wife Kim joined her father-in-law at the Anderson lodge to help the wounded.
Rod travelled back to the Van de Wetering’s lodge, bursting inside, Rod communicated to his mother Helena and Helen Anderson to get the kids into the car, “I wanted to get them out of there … then I heard some more shots fired… Mum and Helen were getting in the back of the car with the kids, [while] I was fumbling through the house trying to piece together a rifle. I got everyone into the car and I started reversing to turn the car around and head up the driveway. That’s when I saw [Stephen] Anderson come over the fence.”
Stephen Anderson armed with his sawn-off shotgun, blocked the exit to the driveway. Stephen then began encroaching upon the occupants of the vehicle. With no other options, Rod travelled back toward the house, “I was hoping I could get the car around the back of the house, but the gate was closed and locked…”
Now with even less options, Rod stepped out of the car with his own rifle and confronted the shotgun wielding madman. Aiming his rifle at Stephen, Rod told the approaching gunman to ‘back off’ multiple times. It was at this moment, Stephen surprised Rod by dropping to the ground while firing his shotgun up at Rod’s face, “It was all in slow motion but I was very clear-headed. I couldn’t really see anything out of my right eye but I could see little bits through my left.”
Wounded, Rod’s first thought was to protect his family and he quickly scrambled over a nearby fence in an attempt to lure the gunman away from his wife and children, “I looked back and saw Anderson coming … I actually thought I was dying. I was getting really tired, I couldn’t see anything and there was blood all over me. I thought that was it, I thought I was dead and I just wanted to get him away from that car… I vaguely remember hearing more shots from behind me … I’m not sure how far he followed me, but at some point he went up the hill to the main road.”
Rod travelled through the NZ bush to the top of Raurimu Spiral before collapsing from his injuries and exhaustion.
Meanwhile, Rod’s father Henk and wife Kim had ventured out to the road to flag down passing traffic in an attempt to help the wounded. A logging truck was passing by and the twosome stopped the passing Wanganui trucker, Gregory Wood.
As Greg Wood slowed to assess the situation, Henk and Kim communicated the circumstances and asked Greg to call for help. Greg’s radio would not get reception, as he moved forward to improve the reception, Greg observed in his side mirror Stephen Anderson jogging alongside the truck reloading his shotgun.
Greg hit the gas and accelerated to escape the danger. He observed Stephen Anderson shoot Henk Van de Wetering, causing him to fall to the ground. Henk covered his face with his hands defensively as Stephen stood over him aiming the shotgun at Henk’s head. Stephen fired, murdering his sixth victim Henk Van de Wetering.
After ‘finishing off’ Henk, Stephen Anderson turned his shotgun to point at Henk’s daughter-in-law Kim Van de Wetering. Kim froze in fear as the gunman sized up the situation. Moments passed as something wandered through the gunman’s mind. Perhaps a moment of lucidity came over Stephen as he seemingly decided to let Kim live. Stephen Anderson disengaged from the conflict and scurried away, disappearing into the roadside bush.
CONCLUDING A RAMPAGE
Hours passed. During this time the police mobilized. With the gunman’s location still unknown, police attempted to locate Stephen Anderson by air while a group of armed police approached the area with caution on foot.
Flying the helicopter was local pilot Keith McKenzie, Detective Derek Webb also occupied the aircraft, he sat in cargo armed with a rifle attempting to locate the gunman. The ‘chopper’ was approaching the Andersons’ lodge when suddenly Derek spotted a naked man dart out of a bush and make a run for it, “We saw that this person was naked. I realised at that stage it was the offender. I could see there was no firearm on him, I signalled to this person, motioned for him to lie on the ground. He looked at me and then he [ran] off, so we followed”.
The helicopter tracked the fleeing spree killer, lowering its elevation to get a closer look, “We got down even lower and I motioned to him again to lie down and this time I pointed my rifle in his direction. When he saw the rifle he fell to the ground, then I jumped out of the helicopter and made sure he was secure.”
Stephen Anderson was handcuffed and flown to Taumarunui, during the short flight Stephen Anderson was extremely emotional, “When we picked him up he was emotional. He had a breakdown, he was sobbing, crying hysterically. I basically reassured him that he was not going to be harmed, that he was alright”.
Stephen was brought to the Taumarunui police station, he was processed then brought into an interview room. Detective Derek Webb sat down to interview the killer:
DETECTIVE DEREK WEBB: What happened this morning?
STEPHEN ANDERSON: It’s a really long story.
DETECTIVE DEREK WEBB: Did you shoot someone?
STEPHEN ANDERSON: Yes.
DETECTIVE DEREK WEBB: Who did you shoot?
STEPHEN ANDERSON: I can’t recall their names. Some of them took a few shots eh…
DETECTIVE DEREK WEBB: Who was the first person you shot?
STEPHEN ANDERSON: Dog. Hang on, I think the first one I got was my father. He was disguised as dog.
Stephen went on to explain that dog was God spelt backwards, in an attempt to make sense of his actions.
Later that day, Stephen returned to the lodge to walk through the carnage with Detective Derek Webb, “He pointed out a number of deceased people, and he told me where the shotgun and his clothing was and they were duly recovered… It was heartbreaking to witness the damage, and later on, hearing how some of the people at that lodge begged for their lives.”
PART III: ‘A TERRIBLE MISTAKE’
STEPHEN ANDERSON AFTERMATH
Stephen Anderson was charged with six counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder. During his trial, an emotionless Stephen entered a not guilty plea by reason of insanity. The jury agreed and he was sentenced to be detained in the Porirua forensic mental health hospital.
During Stephen’s time in psychiatric care, he claimed to find an ‘inner peace’ through daily meditation and studying Buddhist teachings, “It is about really disciplining your mind… it is realising that you have a choice how you feel… Over that time I managed to get the help I needed. I recovered quite quickly and then had to find some way of dealing with what had happened… that has been the go.”
Stephen learnt to express himself through art. In 2008, Stephen released a collection of poems in a book titled Toys in the Attic. The book deals with topics such as marijuana use, the right of a parent to smack a child, the work of the police and the death penalty, “To get the feel of the book, you really have to read the poems around the poems. Often I take… the voice of someone else and tell their story. The more you read it, the more you find in different things. I have tried to use just simple text but try and say big things… it is highly political”.
In July 2009, 12 years after the massacre in Raurimu, it was reported that Stephen Anderson had been released from psychiatric care and was living in the suburb of Clouston Park in Upper Hutt. However, Stephen was recalled into care after using the synthetic cannabis, Kronic.
In November 2014, it was reported in the NZ Herald that Stephen Anderson was working as an art tutor at Wellington’s Inverlochy Art School. Apparently unaware of Stephen’s past, the art school terminated Stephen’s contract once the events of the 8th of February 1997 were brought to their attention, “Even though I’d mentioned to management a number of times, ‘Hey, I’m a patient in hospital,’ I guess it wasn’t a full disclosure. I don’t go around saying, ‘Hi I’m Steve. I shot 10 people’”.
In a 2014 interview with Newshub Stephen Anderson shed some light on what he was thinking that fateful February morning, “I just felt totally alone, and that it was up to me basically to save the world. It sounds crazy, and it is. I didn’t feel that I had a choice in the matter. So you think, if you have a choice I have to do this or the world will end, and even though I loved my father and my father loved me, I saw him as the leader of this group of people and he was first on my list of things to take care of that morning. I thought I’ll give them a chance; I’ll make sure that I’m taking the right action here. By how I interpreted their response, my mind found a way to take that as confirmation of the people that I thought they were, so I went to my room and I came back with a shotgun. My dad, he saw the direness of the situation, and he jumped up from the table and tried to take it from me and that’s when he was shot. The place erupted into pandemonium and some people got away and some people didn’t.”
In that same interview Stephen expressed remorse for his actions that summer morning 17 years ago and how he still struggles with the repercussions of his choices, “I wake up to what’s happened every day and so many other people have to deal with the fallout too… This was a national shame, a national tragedy what occurred… I wish I could wave a magic wand and change it all and help those people… I think the best we can do is show we are trying to make an effort. Given the opportunity, I can be a productive member of society. I can give back some of the goodness I have taken away… I maintain a sense of regret for what’s happened. I have regrets. Of course I’m sorry for what happened; it was a terrible mistake. It’s been recognised for a long time that in that altered state we’re not that person; we’re not the person who you see before you now. So it’s a difficult question to answer. What words can I say that would help people accept what’s happened? What words can I say that would change their mind? I just have to accept that for some people, I will always be that bad guy. I will always be the guy that they want to blame.”
PART IV: ‘A HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE DAY’
An inquest into the shootings was led by Coroner Tim Scott. Tim released his report in April of 1999, the report laid the blame at the feet of one of the victims, Stephen’s father Neville. The report wrote, “He was a man familiar with firearms, but his attitude to storage was casual and careless. That attitude cost him and five others their lives. If there is one single fact that has given rise to this tragedy, it was that carelessness.” The report also lay some blame on the shoulders of the District Health Board of Wellington for their subpar treatment of their patient.
The survivors of the Raurimu rampage have struggled overcoming the tragic events of that day and some have their own feelings on who to blame. In 2009, survivor, Isabel McCarty whose husband died after being shot in the driveway the day of the massacre expressed outrage that Stephen Anderson was a free man. In her mind Stephen had not paid a large enough price for his actions that summer morning, “He killed six people after all – it is a bit ludicrous that he has got off so easily. It is another example of New Zealand not punishing people who do something wrong… There has been no apology, remorse, nothing from him whatsoever. And I have known him since he was about three or four years old. So it is not as though he doesn’t know the family.’’
Isabel added in 2017 she lays the blame at the feet of Stephen’s mother, “I blame his mother… The first thing she said when we got there, and I will never forget it, was ‘sorry we’ve had to bring Stephen’… He was too sick to have been left at home on his own so he had to go with them. If he was too sick to be at home, he was too sick to have a gun. That whole weekend was just a nightmare. I blame Helen and I don’t care if she knows.”
Husband and Wife Rod and Kim Van de Wetering also struggled exorcising the demons of Raurimu. Both have dealt with survivor’s guilt and whether they could have done more to reduce the casualties. In a 2017 interview with the NZ Herald Rod expressed some regret for not shooting Stephen Anderson when he had the opportunity, “There are a lot of moments I would like to go back and do again that day – and do it right… I wouldn’t have given Anderson the opportunity … that was my crime … if I’d shot him, then my father would still be alive. I know I did everything I could that day, I know I didn’t do too bad a job because I got my two kids out, and my mum, but in the back of my mind my dad still died because I didn’t kill Stephen Anderson. I still feel guilty about that; even though I know I shouldn’t, I still do. You can’t just bury that.”
Kim Van de Wetering spoke in that same interview about how the events of that day forever changed her, “I remember every single second, every minute, every detail, every sound, every smell, every fear, every moment, feeling facing evil, feeling not being able to run, feeling watching while your children and husband were being shot at, the feeling as the killer approached and you knew it was over, but somehow it wasn’t… For a long time it just wasn’t real, it was [like] a movie and any minute someone would wake us up and things would go back to normal… I don’t think about it daily but it has shaped who I am. I lost my innocence on that day. Until then I thought the world was a wonderful place and had the ability to find the good in people without even thinking about the bad. Having this false sense of security that you alone control your life is no more … You don’t have any control to protect your family… To this day in public, I never have my back to the opening of a restaurant or door, I always have an escape route. I do this without thinking. Once upon a time I would methodically work it through the scenario where I would have to make a quick escape … but not so much now… Some people call that day an anniversary. It’s not an anniversary, it’s a horrible, horrible day that belongs to the killer. That’s the way I see it.”
Stephen’s mother Helen Anderson has stood by her son in the years subsequent to the massacre, even though she admitted initially to having mixed feelings on her son’s role in the tragedy, “We were told that we could go [visit Stephen in]… Waikeria Prison, and I said that I don’t know if I can go and see him because I had such mixed feelings about what had happened… But I knew that he would be feeling very alone, very mixed up in his feelings. So who better to go see than his mum? So immediately when I saw him I just hugged him and just wanted to know that he was all right and I haven’t looked back.”
Helen believes that her son is an example of how people living with mental illness can improve and become productive members of society, “I’m just so pleased I’m here for him… I sometimes wonder what might have happened had I not survived that tragedy also and who would have looked out for Stephen. The comment was made at some stage, ‘They should lock him up and throw away the key.’ But people with mental illness can get well again. He needs to be given that opportunity to show how well he is and to get on with his life… I love my son… I want to see him get on with his life. He’s got a lot to give, just let him do it. He’s not a danger to anybody.”
Today, in the grounds of what used to be the village school in Raurimu you will find a memorial to remember the tragedy. Six golden totara trees stand in a semi-circle, surrounding a small plaque.
The plaque reads:
These trees were planted in memory of the six who lost their lives in the Raurimu shooting February 8 1997.
The 8th of February 1997 will forever go down in infamy as one of NZ’s darkest days. In total the perpetrator of the Raurimu rampage Stephen Anderson shot ten people, killing six — his 60-year-old father Neville Robin Anderson, 63-year-old Anthony Gordon McCarty, 38-year-old Stephen Mark Hanson, 28-year-old John Frederick Matthews, 52-year-old Andrea Joy Brander and 51-year-old Hendrick Dirk Van de Wetering with many more scarred; physically and emotionally.
The memories of that day continue to haunt those who were there the day of The Raurimu Rampage, including Stephen Anderson as he continues to struggle with the decisions he made 23 years ago, “I think I’ve let myself off the hook to some degree. I still have, like we discussed before, I’ve got the images and everything of what happened. I don’t know if I’ve totally forgiven myself… I guess I just want as regular [a] life as I can manage, you know?… I’m not in control of what people think. They’re entitled to think what they want and I can’t really dictate that, but I can ask for another go and I’m not going to let them down… I’m just so lucky to have my mum in my life. Things could have been worse on the day thinking back. I don’t even think I would have survived without my mum’s support in hospital or even in the day if something had happened to Mum… I guess I just want to reassure people on some level that there are checks and balances… Also put a face to that person that’s been cast as just a terrible, evil man. And I’m not that person.”
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NZ Herald, Remembering Raurimu: victims break their 20-year silence, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11794080
NZ Herald, Mass killer: I’m sorry, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10658186
The Coast, Raurimu massacre: 20 years on, https://www.thecoast.net.nz/news/raurimu-massacre-20-years-on/
Te Ara, King Country places, https://teara.govt.nz/en/king-country-places/page-8
Wikipedia, Raurimu Spiral,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raurimu_Spiral
WebMD, Schizophrenia and Marijuana: Trigger or Treatment?, https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/schizophrenia-marijuana-link#2