Two years after a Northland man was poisoned by wine masquerading as a mystery gift, his family and friends are still hoping justice will be done for the “sneaky, disgusting murder”.
David Davan, a retired farmer from the Far North community of Herekino, died in hospital on December 9, 2021, after falling ill in November.
The 67-year-old’s ill-health was linked to two bottles of wine anonymously left in his letterbox, with one later found to contain the restricted weedkiller paraquat. In the rural community of Herekino, such gifting is not unusual with neighbours running a sort of bartering system.
Police launched a homicide investigation in March 2022 and say the investigation is ongoing.
In December 2022, friends and family offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.
Friend Brett Evans, who helped organise the reward, said he hoped the money would put pressure on the perpetrator.
The fact whoever was responsible has not been arrested yet for the “premeditated killing” caused considerable unease, he said.
“It’s a sneaky, disgusting murder and he’s got away with it.”
Evans described Davan as the salt of the earth and a hard worker.
“Anything to do with farming, he was just an expert. He taught me fencing and I went on to become a contractor,” he said.
“He did stock work, dogs, butchering and, of course, sheering which is what he mainly did for a career,” Evans said.
“He was a soft-hearted guy. He raised chickens and incubated eggs, and made ginger beer for the local kids.”
Evans said the conviction of David Benbow in Christchurch in October for murdering his long-time friend Michael McGrath gave him hope police might be successful in this case.
In that case, the evidence was all circumstantial, with no body, murder weapon or forensic evidence found.
In David Davan’s case, circumstantial evidence might be needed to make a convincing case, Evans believed.
His brother, Grant Davan, said it was frustrating information that came out of the reward publicity turned out to lead nowhere.
He also wanted police to solve the case as quickly as they could.
“It would help everybody. All his mates are wondering what the hell happened; it wouldn’t be up in limbo if they can solve it.”
Grant Davan believed the reward might help encourage someone close to the killer to come forward.
“Sometimes the [guilty] people can’t sleep at night and they tell someone.”
Grant Davan described his brother as a workaholic who was well-liked in the community.
But he admitted David Davan also drank too much and called himself a functioning alcoholic.
A police spokesperson said they continue to investigate the homicide, including following up on additional information brought to light through the reward.