Cook Islands government apologises after fatal shootings


Government officials in Rarotonga have apologised to the families of those killed in a horror double shooting, and have ordered an urgent review of gun control laws in the Cook Islands.

It comes as victims families say the shooter while still in prison had bragged to other inmates about carrying out the crime days before the killings.

Chris Rimamotu got a gun after he was given access to a shipping container he owned while on community release.

On Friday, Justice Ministry officials accepted serious mistakes were made.

Mana Utia is the village chief and cousin to Mary Dean and Roger Tauarea, the pair who were gunned down in their home by Rimamotu.

"I'm angry because I could not do anything," Mr Utia said

"I couldn't even help my own family who I face every day."

Rimamotu had been on work release from jail. But family say he'd openly joked with other inmates about his intentions to kill in the days before it happened.

"With this kind of thing, saying to kill someone, I don't think that's a joke. I think that should have been taken seriously," Mr Utia said. But, he said, it was ignored.

Rimamotu and another inmate had been on release, tasked with fixing a prison tractor. Prison staff didn't have the tools to do the job. Rimamotu suggested they use his tools stored inside this shipping container.

He was on the back of a prison van unrestrained with another inmate when they arrived at Rimamotu's shipping container.

He jumped off, supposedly to get his tools, but grabbed a gun and went 200 metres up the road to his ex-partner's house, where he started shooting.

Cook Islands Justice Minster Nandi Glassie said she sends her most sincere apologies to all the victims' family members, and she hopes it's "a learning curve" for the ministry.

The work release scheme is now under review.

"I think the only thing we can say is sorry. It's probably late to say sorry but we are sorry and we are going to look at our processes," Cook Islands Justice Ministry Secretary Tingika Elikana said.

The government has announced an urgent review of the country's gun control laws which are very outdated.

Rimamotu's gun was not registered and current rules mean people don't have to have their firearm stored securely.

Family of the Mary Dean and Roger Tauarea have arrived from New Zealand and are planning the funerals.