ZB ZB
Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Listen to NAME OF STATION
Up next
Listen live on
ZB

'All I want is closure': Dog attack victim's family still searching for answers

Author
Avneesh Vincent,
Publish Date
Sat, 9 Sep 2023, 2:31PM
Neville Thomson was a father and grandfather whose family was extremely important to him.
Neville Thomson was a father and grandfather whose family was extremely important to him.

'All I want is closure': Dog attack victim's family still searching for answers

Author
Avneesh Vincent,
Publish Date
Sat, 9 Sep 2023, 2:31PM

It’s been a year since a heartbroken Nataria Moore buried her father but, with circumstances around his death left largely unclear, she still waits for closure. 

On August 4 last year, her father Neville Thomson was mauled to death by vicious dogs owned by a friend who was boarding at his home at Puketawa Rd in Panguru. 

However, both police and independent investigations into his death have left his whānau with more questions than answers. 

“I wish I could say that we have gained some sort of peace but after a yearlong struggle of trauma we are still waiting to know what really happened on that day,” Moore said. 

The tragedy flipped the lives upside down of those who knew Thomson well, including her and his two sons Tama and Te Ahu. 

Even as she tries her best to move forward with life, running her business and raising her 12-year-old daughter in Coromandel, Moore often waits for a telephone call from police in Hokianga. 

“They told us that we would be updated throughout their investigation, but they didn’t.” 

The last update she received – months ago – was that police were working with their legal team to set up some charges against the dog owner. However, nothing was set in stone. 

Since then, every attempt to get an answer about her father’s death has been met with almost an identical line of reply: “We are still collecting all the information.” 

When the Advocate asked police for an update, a spokesperson said they were still reviewing the information gathered from their investigation. 

“At this stage, no arrests have been made and the investigation remains ongoing,” the spokesperson said. 

Nataria Moore with her father Neville Thomson. She says the family are struggling to find answers and get a clear picture of what happened the day he died.Nataria Moore with her father Neville Thomson. She says the family are struggling to find answers and get a clear picture of what happened the day he died. 

Moore did not hide her disappointment with the progress of the investigation. 

“I have been in touch with the Far North police, who keep telling me about having other cases and limited resources,” she said. “And this is where we are finding it difficult. 

“That a certain dog owner was responsible for his dogs, which killed a person. But nothing has happened and it just doesn’t sound fair to me. I feel helpless.” 

Although she didn’t know her father’s friend, she was aware that he had sought refuge, with his dogs, a month before the tragedy. 

Thomson initially felt sorry for the man and asked him to house-sit until he returned from a three-week trip to pay respects to his dead father. 

On his return, he was shocked to find more than 25 dogs, mostly puppies, on his property after one of his friend’s bitches became pregnant. 

On the day of his death, Thomson expressed his displeasure about the situation to one of his good friends during a phone call and clarified that he wanted them all gone, Moore said. 

“But suddenly, he put down the phone and went out and that’s when it all happened.” 

Moore says her father was a person who would help anyone out. Moore says her father was a person who would help anyone out. 

It wasn’t until that afternoon that she received a call from her younger brother Tama. 

“I was doing afterschool with children when my phone kept on ringing. When I excused myself and picked up the call my brother was in hysterics saying, ‘Dad’s dead’.” 

“I went blank and felt that I couldn’t breathe.” 

The same night her brothers picked her up and they travelled to her father’s place, arriving the next morning. 

“One of the lady police officers over there escorted us to the hospital morgue where our father’s body lay. 

“When I asked her if we could dress our father, the officer broke down in tears and said we could not.” 

On seeing his body, she observed that a part of his head was swollen, implying he landed on his face, while the rest of his body “seemed like something that came out from a horror movie”. 

Neville Thomson with his dog Fergus. Thomson was an avid dog lover so it was a shock to his family when he was killed in a dog attack. Neville Thomson with his dog Fergus. Thomson was an avid dog lover so it was a shock to his family when he was killed in a dog attack. 

But what bothers her is that her family still do not have a clear picture of what truly happened that day. 

“Where was that certain dog owner when this took place and what did he do to stop it? Then there is the timeframe: if my father died around 10.30am, why did emergency services arrive long after lunchtime? 

“I could go on with more speculations ... but all I want is closure.” 

While Tama was taking care of their father’s home, she was looking after one of Thomson’s dogs, named Fergus. 

“I can see how it has impacted him as well. I even feel for those untrained dogs who attacked and so would my father, who loved animals. It’s their trainer who is at fault.” 

This Father’s Day, Moore lit up a candle in memory of her dad, who was known to be everyone’s best friend and “a good fella”. 

Avneesh Vincent is the crime and emergency services reporter at the Advocate. He was previously at the Gisborne Herald as the arts and environment reporter and is passionate about covering stories that can make a difference. He joined NZME in July 2023. 

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you