Regional | Te Aupōuri

Off-duty police officer fatally injured by car to be buried in family urupā

The Northland Police officer who died after being hit by a car in Helena Bay in mid-April was Senior Constable Gail Shepherd.

This article was first published by RNZ

A Northland police officer who died when she was hit by a car will be laid to rest in her family urupā today.

Senior Constable Gail Shepherd was off-duty and walking a family member’s dogs at Helena Bay, north of Whangārei, on Saturday when a passing car left the road, hit a power pole, and then struck her.

She was 49.

After a full police service and guard of honour at Haven Falls Poutama Tangihanga Funeral Home in Whangārei on Monday morning, whānau members took her to the family home at Te Kao, about 60km north of Kaitāia, and from there to Pōtahi Marae.

Her tangihanga will conclude with a funeral service at the marae starting at 10am.

She will then be interred in the family cemetery, Tūtūmaiao wāhi tapū.

Kaitāia-born Shepherd started her police career in Whangārei in 2007 before taking on a sole-charge position in Kohukohu, where she was responsible for the remote North Hokianga area.

At the start of this year she took on another sole-charge position in Houhora, New Zealand’s northernmost police station, replacing her brother, Leon “Smiley” Shepherd.

Northland’s newly appointed police District Commander, Superintendent Matt Srhoj, described her as “a very experienced frontline officer” who spent her entire career working in Northland.

“Gail’s death is a huge loss for her family, friends and police colleagues,” Srhoj said.

“She was a much-loved mother, grandmother and friend to so many, and those who had the privilege of knowing her will feel her loss immensely.”

Srhoj said an investigation into the circumstances of the crash was ongoing.

Shepherd was also highly regarded in the Te Tai Tokerau waka community.

For almost 10 years she was at the helm of the waka tētē Te Whānau Moana, steering the canoe at events such as the annual Waitangi Day commemorations and guiding young paddlers in kaupapa waka.

Her uncle, Joe Conrad, is the captain of the great waka Ngātokimatawhaorua, and her cousin Miri Conrad is the kaihautu (captain) of Te Whānau Moana.

Conrad said the tragedy had hit the family hard.

She would be greatly missed by her whānau, her police colleagues, and Te Tai Tokerau’s waka community.

Conrad said the dogs survived and had been returned to her cousin’s Helena Bay home. One was reportedly injured but recovering.

Shepherd’s own dogs were being looked after by family.

Shepherd is survived by a daughter, two sons, and a number of grandchildren.

Those making tributes to her in recent days have included Far North Mayor Moko Tepania - who praised her commitment to keeping the people of North Hokianga safe during Cyclone Gabrielle - and Police Minister Mark Mitchell.