New Zealand: Gay Editor/Journalist, Phillip Alexander Cottrell, Dies After Beating
Police launched a murder investigation last night after Radio New Zealand bulletins editor Phillip Alexander Cottrell, 43, died in Wellington Hospital yesterday.
Cottrell, who suffered a condition that made his bones brittle, was beaten in Boulcott St minutes after he left work on The Terrace about 5.30am on Saturday. His life support was disconnected yesterday.
Detective Senior Sergeant Scott Miller this afternoon said there was an 11-minute window in which the attack could have taken place.
Cottrell left work at 5.30am and was spotted by a taxi driver at 5.41pm. Police believe the taxi driver may have just missed seeing the assault take place.
Cottrell was reportedly openly gay, though police did not think the attack was related to his sexuality and that would not be a focus for their investigations.
"We can not see any reason for Mr Cottrell to be involved in an altercation … He took that same route down Boulcott Street most days," Miller said.
Cottrell was believed to be going to his home in central Wellington. His injuries indicate that a weapon might have been used, though police did not find one at the scene.
Miller said the nature of the injuries, which he described as “very severe”, indicated that Mr Cottrell saw the attacker or attackers approaching.
He said the injuries were serious enough that Mr Cottrell’s degenerative bone disease could not have been solely responsible for his death.
Police are compiling extensive CCTV inquiries through all businesses in the immediate area. At this time police do not know how many attackers were involved.
They have not yet located Cottrell’s brown men’s wallet and this would be part of their search.
Millar said police had spoken to a lot of witnesses but were still appealing for anyone else in the Gilmer Terrace and Boulcott Street area between 5.30am and 5.45am on Saturday to come forward.
Police were also contacting businesses in the area to talk to staff who may have been starting or finishing work at the time of the attack.
The autopsy was under way this afternoon.
Millar also expressed sympathy to Cottrell’s family and RNZ colleagues.
"Obviously the family are extremely devastated and have had to make decisions. It’s not an easy time."
"It is a busy time of year just before Christmas and there are a lot of people are out, but this is an assault that couldn’t be predicted. This is unpredictable and unprovoked," Millar said earlier today.
The death comes as monthly police statistics show serious assaults in Wellington have increased by 43 per cent in the past year.
Acting Wellington area commander Detective Inspector Steve Vaughan said he still believed the city to be safe despite the attacks.
"Random attacks are very very difficult for police to prevent, that is why the message is for everyone to control their own safety.
When you have people, trouble makers, miscreants coming into town…it is too difficult to police. I’m certainly concerned about any violence but it certainly is the exception not the norm. We have a very very safe city.”