Christchurch double death: Clearly something has gone wrong – Beverley and Nick Mcilraith case a mystery to many

For days – as many as three weeks’ worth – they lay there.

Beverley Mcilraith in one room upstairs.

Her son Nick Mcilraith in another downstairs.

And for a time no one noticed.

Their mail piled up in the letterbox.

Their curtains and windows stayed closed.

There was no life in their house – but that wasn’t entirely unusual.

Neighbours thought it was abandoned, “haunted” even.

No one noticed when the rundown eerie house became even more quiet.

And then, the police came.

At 6pm on Saturday April 2 officers pulled into Ayr St in Riccarton, parked their patrol car and walked up the overgrown path to the front door of the Mcilraith house.

They were there to do a welfare check. Someone in the family had called them, concerned after they could not get hold of Beverley or Nick.

Police routinely get calls from people worried about family or friends they cannot reach and welfare checks are part of their normal frontline duties.

But when they got to the Ayr St house they soon realised nothing there was normal.

The officers got inside the house and discovered Beverley and Nick’s bodies.

The pair had been dead for some time.

A source says it was “a number of days” and “possibly up to three weeks” but their actual date of death is yet to be determined.

It may even be left to a Coroner to make the final ruling.

Once the bodies were located the first responding officers would have pulled out of the house quickly and alerted their shift managers to the grisly find.

A cordon went up and by daylight on Sunday the police presence had grown.

A mobile policing unit, a trailer full of scene examination supplies – gloves, booties, hairnets, evidence bags – was parked outside.

A tent was erected where forensic experts could deposit and catalogue evidence from the scene, a screen was put up so neighbours, reporters and the like could not see into the open front door.

Almost a week on there has been little information released about what happened inside that house.

By Monday the deaths had been referred to the Coroner, indicating at least one of the deaths was likely self-inflicted.

By Tuesday police had confirmed they were looking at homicide.

They have been tight-lipped on the circumstances – partly because they are investigating for the Coroner – and partly because they too are waiting for answers.

The bodies were removed from the house on Sunday night and post mortem examinations were completed, which confirmed to police they had a homicide – that one of the victims had been killed by another.

It is understood the working theory is that Nick Mcilraith, a part-time worker in his 40s, killed his 80-year-old mother and then ended his own life.

Police are still waiting on the formal identification of the pair – a legal requirement – to be completed.

The process can take longer and be much trickier when bodies have been lying undiscovered for any length of time.

Police will only release names when this phase is complete and even then only with the Coroner’s say-so.

But sources have confirmed there is no real question that the victims are the mother and son.

The Mcilraith family was not ready to speak about the tragedy yet.

Tributes are yet to appear for the mother and son, who have lived together for some time.

Neighbours said they were not seen often and some even thought the house, one of adjoining Tudor-style three-bedroom builds, was abandoned.

It’s easy to see why.

The exterior of the house is covered – for the most part – in wild ivy.

It has engulfed the walls, the window and sits out at least half a metre from a perimeter fence it has also taken over.

The concrete driveway cannot be seen for weeds and grass and a red car sits amid the overgrowth, spotted with moss and lichen.

A Google street view image taken in 2019 shows the car in situ – albeit with slightly less growth around it.

When police arrived the mailbox was overflowing with circulars, leaflets, envelopes.

The contents was soon removed, likely collected as evidence as police try to work out when the pair were last active, alive.

A man listed as an owner of the Mcilraith house – spanning three storeys on the corner of Ayr St and Mona Vale Ave – said Beverley purchased the property some time before the 2011 quake in Christchurch.

The retired lawyer holds a share of the property as a trustee.

He said he had known Beverley for years but last spoke to her in September.

“I don’t really know what happened,” he said.

“It has been some time since I have seen them, it’s very sad.

Before Beverley bought the house on Ayr St she lived in Aikmans Rd in Merivale.

The trustee said he wasn’t aware of any issues with the family, but reiterated it had been a while since he’d had any contact.

“I thought it was quite nice that he lived with her and she had company … but clearly something has gone wrong,” he told the Herald.

Residents spoken to by the Herald said they too were unaware of any issues at the Mcilraith house.

Some suspected it had been “abandoned” due to its dilapidated state.

One woman told police manning the cordon that she always thought it looked “haunted”.

Police were at the property for days carrying out the examination of the house, walking in and out of the front door with items of evidence sealed in bags – covered head to toe in protective gear to preserve the crime scene.

Detective senior sergeant Colin Baillie would not be drawn on any specific details of the investigation.

He said it was simply too soon and he would not speculate.

He confirmed “no one else is being sought in relation to the incident” and that police were in close contact with a number of members of the Mcilraith family about the investigation.

“Our thoughts are with the wider family and they are being supported by Victim Support.”
Another source said cases of “parricide” – the killing of a parent -were not common in New Zealand.

“It’s a very, very sad set of circumstances,” he said.

By Wednesday the police had left the scene.

Gone was the tape, the tent, the traipsing officers, the marked and unmarked cars lining the street.

A commercial cleaning company van was backed into the driveway and staff were in the house- some windows wide open for the first time in months – restoring the house to a condition appropriate for police to hand it back to the family.

Curtains, earlier drawn shut and crawling with flies between the fabric and windows, were open wide and pushed aside to let the air in.

The stream of cars – onlookers, nosey parkers, media – had dissipated andAyr St was settling back into normalcy after being thrust into the spotlight.

But many questions remain.

What went so fatally wrong – and when?

The police investigation continues – with “lots of background inquiries” underway and a Coronial process will follow.

Only then will the true tale of the Mcilraith family tragedy come to light.

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