Christchurch carer Val Heaney killed inside his own home: Family speak of grief and loss of a ‘kind and wonderful person’

Val Heaney’s home has come under intense scrutiny from police as they piece together how she died. Photo/George Heard

The family of a Christchurch woman killed in her home have paid tribute to a ‘kind and wonderful’ woman.

Val Heaney, 64, was found dead at her home on Walcot St in the suburb of Bromley last Monday evening.

A police investigation into his death – dubbed Operation Bath – is ongoing.

To date, no arrests have been made.

Heaney’s family said today that they are ‘mourning the loss of a much loved family member’.

“Our family has been overwhelmed with support and we are grateful.

“Val was a carer for people with intellectual disabilities and a community support worker, which is a testament to how kind and wonderful a person she was.

“We are grateful for the police support and victim assistance, and we are desperate to find out exactly what happened to Val.”

Senior Detective Sergeant Nicola Reeves said the investigation is progressing.

“We recognize this is a difficult time for Val’s friends and family and everyone is anxious to find out what happened,” she said.

“The police can reassure the community that we are working hard and pursuing investigative leads to establish the facts surrounding his death.”

Neighbors told the Herald they heard screams and “high-pitched voices” on Heaney’s property the day before the owner, in isolation with Covid-19, was found dead.

His death was originally considered suspicious.

Val Heaney was a respected caregiver.  Photo / Provided
Val Heaney was a respected caregiver. Photo / Provided

But Thursday night, Reeves confirmed a homicide investigation was ongoing.

The murder has left residents nervous and scared as police begin an intense investigation.

“It’s CSI stuff here,” a local said on Friday.

“What you see on TV happened here.”

The murder shocked residents of the Quiet Street of Christchurch.  Photo/George Heard
The murder shocked residents of the Quiet Street of Christchurch. Photo/George Heard

A large police cordon surrounded the pink brick property, with a blue police tent erected on the sidewalk and a mobile police base parked outside.

Investigators were seen focusing on a screen door at the side of the house.

An autopsy was performed last week.

Heaney had lived in Walcot St for decades and started running her family home as a boarding house after her husband Gavin died around 13 years ago.

The police investigation at the scene is ongoing.  Photo/George Heard
The police investigation at the scene is ongoing. Photo/George Heard

The experienced carer preferred to have “mature” boarders, according to previous announcements and it is understood that three or four people would live there at a time.

His daughter Natasha, who has Down syndrome, died last year.

Heaney had worked as a carer for people with developmental disabilities and as a community support worker at Brackenridge, a Christchurch charity that helps people with learning disabilities and autism.

A neighbor the Herald spoke to said there had been shouting and “high-pitched voices” last Sunday afternoon.

The house was the subject of an intense police check.  Photo/George Heard
The house was the subject of an intense police check. Photo/George Heard

But it was not an unusual event, he said, and “not enough to get on our nerves”.

He thought many people would have been inside at the time to watch the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup final between Australia and England, which was being played across the city at Hagley Oval.

Police arrived at the house Monday night and found Heaney’s body.

Since then, the house has been the scene of intense police scrutiny.

“It’s a shock and a surprise to us. We’re stunned by it all,” a neighbor said.

“It’s mind-boggling to be next to this kind of situation.”

The murder left residents on edge.

“It’s one of those quiet little streets,” said a neighbor.

“My biggest concern is whether we are in danger.”

He had expressed his concerns to the police who tried to allay his concerns.

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