A policeman outside the East Auckland flat where the Iraqi immigrant was shot dead. Picture / Amos Chapple
Knifeman's wife saved by cop's fatal shot
By LOUISA CLEAVE, WAYNE THOMPSON and STEPHEN COOK
A police constable, bleeding from an arm wound, fatally shot his attacker in the head from 7m away as the man held a carving knife to his wife's neck and began stabbing.
The shooting - the first since Steven Wallace was killed by police in Waitara in April 2000 - happened on Saturday afternoon when three officers, responding to a 111 call, were confronted by an Iraqi immigrant armed with a knife.
As they burst into the Dale Cres property in Pakuranga, East Auckland, they found Haidar Ebbadi Mahdi, 37, in a "distressed state".
He was brandishing a carving knife and the officers told him to put it down. He refused, then advanced on the trio.
One of the police used pepper spray but it did little to subdue Mr Mahdi, said Detective Inspector Steve Rutherford, who is heading an inquiry into the killing.
Mr Mahdi then attacked one of the police, inflicting "reasonably serious" stab wounds to the arm.
Mr Rutherford said the injured officer and his colleagues went into a kitchen area and closed the door.
"Within seconds they heard the woman in the room screaming ... They made a decision to re-enter the room."
They found Mr Mahdi with his wife in a "throttle hold".
Bleeding from an arm, the stabbed constable fired at Mr Mahdi from 7m away using a Glock pistol.
Yesterday, Mr Rutherford described the officer's actions as "heroic ... in that he and his partner were able to avoid further serious injury to themselves and also the woman who, although injured, was saved from what could have been life-threatening or horrific injuries".
The constable and Mr Mahdi's wife were discharged from hospital yesterday.
The incident received top priority from the police, with two press briefings being held at the weekend.
Police Commissioner Rob Robinson and Assistant Commissioner Peter Marshall also flew to Auckland from Wellington to oversee the initial stages of the homicide investigation.
The Police Complaints Authority is also investigating the shooting.
For three months, Mr Mahdi had lived the quiet life. The short, plump, balding Iraqi migrant was regarded as a good tenant who would often greet his neighbours with a friendly hello over the back fence.
It is understood he and his Muslim wife had lived in New Zealand for a few years, but had been in Auckland only a matter of months after moving from Wellington.
Mr Mahdi is believed to have had a psychological or personal illness.
His landlord, Jay Janjua, said Mr Mahdi kept his flat in an "immaculate" condition. Work and Income paid the rent.
He spoke very little English, and had never caused any problems.
Pensioner Isabel McIntyre, who lives next door, said she was shocked to hear of Mr Mahdi's death.
"I was upset - he was just a young man."
She said Mr Mahdi spent every day repairing cars in the small yard behind the flat.
She recalled that when Mr Mahdi moved in, he spent days cleaning the property - even scrubbing the brick exterior and repainting windows.
Mrs McIntyre said Mr Mahdi's wife was bleeding from the forehead as two policemen dragged her towards the street. She vomited when she reached the road.
Another neighbour, Geoff Mold, said he heard noises like the sound of someone hitting an iron fence, and was surprised when police came out of the house with the injured woman.
Mr Rutherford said the officer was "one of the few" who had the district commander's authority to carry a firearm in his vehicle.
Mr Rutherford said the officer who shot Mr Mahdi had not been stood down from duty.
All three officers had been offered police welfare assistance and Victim Support help.