In the final of a three-part series, Deena Coster revisits the violent killing of David Oemcke, a case where there was a confession to the crime but no charges laid.
The 1990 murder of David Oemcke came at the end of one of the bloodiest periods in Taranaki’s criminal history.
Between October 1988 and January 1990, 10 people were killed by violence meted out against them. This included a woman being strangled, a man being shot, three stabbings and a victim dying after being hit with a spade.
However, David’s murder is the only case which wasn’t solved, a situation which has endured for 27 years.
David had not long been out of prison when he came to Taranaki from the Hawke’s Bay, to visit his brother Selwyn (Joe) Oemcke, who was living in Stratford.
On the evening of January 3, 1990, the siblings had been out drinking together, starting at Stratford’s Empire Hotel before travelling the five kilometre journey to the Midhirst Tavern.
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They downed several drinks and played pool before leaving as the pub closed about 10pm.
Thirty minutes later, David was dead.
Joe drove the Vauxhall Chevette car the brothers had bought earlier in the day to a Tybalt St address in Stratford – the home of Katie Kidd.
In August 2008, following a Taranaki Daily News investigation into the unsolved case, Kidd spoke of how Joe had turned up at her house on the night of the murder.
During the late-night visit, she said Joe confessed to killing his brother and that he wanted her to give him an alibi.
She went to check on David herself and found him slumped in the passenger seat of the car, with his arm hanging out of the open window.
She checked for a pulse but couldn’t find one.
A call was made to a couple they both knew, who arrived shortly afterwards. A doctor was called, followed by ambulance and police.
When officers arrived at the address, they saw David’s lifeless body in the car and a large amount of blood, which had pooled in the footwell.
A post mortem later determined the 30-year-old died as a result of a massive blow to the top of his head, which had fractured his skull.
He suffered a gash to his head and a wound to his jaw, as well as a broken arm.
The re-examination of the case by the media also outlined how Joe had given various accounts to police officers about the way David had received his fatal injuries.
He initially said David had been hit by a truck as he leaned out of the car window before admitting soon afterwards that had been a lie. He then went on to say his brother had been attacked by a group of men in the Midhirst Tavern carpark.
However, a day after his brother’s death Joe told police he was the one responsible for causing it.
In his confession, Joe said he and David had argued after leaving the Midhirst Tavern.
As it became more heated and turned physical, Joe stopped the car. After the pair got out of the vehicle, Joe said he picked something up from the road side and swung it in David’s direction.
Joe told police he was aiming for his brother’s shoulder but hit him on the head instead.
He said his brother’s eyes rolled around and his head went floppy as he struck him again on the arm with the weapon.
An axe with blood on the handle was found later at Joe’s home, which matched paint flecks from those found around David’s head wound. When questioned, Joe denied using it.
Officers took the evidence they had gathered during the investigation to the Crown solicitor, who reviewed the case.
However, it was deemed there was not enough to proceed with a prosecution.
Joe left Taranaki in the months following the murder and has since denied having anything to do with his brother’s death.
Ten years ago, a further appeal for information about the unsolved crime was launched but nothing new came to light.
No arrests have ever been made in the homicide case.
As there is no statute of limitation on a murder charge, it still remains possible to hold someone legally accountable.
Detective Senior Sergeant Brent Matuku says homicide files which are unsolved always remain active.
“All information from the public is treated in confidence and it is always considered as to how it can assist any investigation,” he says.
“Every little bit helps, regardless of how small or how old the information might be. Some information can be acted on and lead to other enquiries, and some information at times falls short and is simply added to the file until potentially one day that information becomes relevant.”
Do you know what happened to David Oemcke? If you do, ring the New Plymouth police station on 06 7595500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.