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Gavin Dash Murder File
This good-natured, reliable young man seemed to vanish without a trace, prompting the police to upgrade the ‘missing person’ investigation to include the possibility of foul play by persons as yet unidentified.
Gavin Dash was considered a high-achiever with a very successful life ahead of him. He had gained a Master of Arts degree (MA) with honours from Auckland University and had come to Wellington to pursue a law degree from Victoria University. Working part time for Parliament writing select committee notes, his passions included chess, toastmasters’ and table tennis, and his family and friends considered him a stable and likeable young man.

On Monday, September 27 1999, Gavin Dash visited the Wellington Law Library situated opposite Parliament buildings, where at 6.31pm the computer network recorded him logging on to check his emails. The next stop he made was to his previous flat in Karori, apparently to pick up some mail. At 7.30pm that evening, Gavin failed to keep an appointment with his former landlord to get his bond back. Nine months later Gavin Edward Dash’s decaying and dismembered body was found in two separate graves in the Makara Hills, Wellington.

Some seven months earlier, 27 year old David James Gates had responded to an ad in the paper for a flatmate. Visiting the flat in Wavell St, Karori, he met the other two housemates, Gavin Dash and a young girl with learning difficulties named Patterson. After convincing the two that he would be the ideal flatmate, David Gates moved in.

It didn’t take long for cracks to appear in the flatting harmony. Gavin would send emails to his mother, in Auckland full of frustration about David Gates. He once described David in one of his emails home as “one of the most moody, immature and self-absorbed people I have met. We don’t get along at all”

The situation become increasing volatile until in May, Patterson rung the police at 2am to report that David Gates had threatened her. He had told her that after putting $500 into a bank account to take care of bills, he would do away with her and Gavin. Patterson moved out soon afterward and Gavin found himself alone with David.

David became increasing unstable. He became infuriated when Gavin would walk away from arguments or ignore him completely. He would refer to Gavin as the “evil fornicator” and was obsessed by the belief that he masturbated incessantly in his room.

As the hostility reached fever pitch, Gavin left on July 24 without notice to the landlord and without saying goodbye to David Gates. Even though he left no forwarding address, David located his number at his new flat. He made nine calls from his parent’s phone to Gavin’s new flat in Pembroke Road, Northland - three of which were made the day before Gavin Dash disappeared.

On Monday 27 September 1999, Gavin Dash, now able to lead a less stressful lifestyle, attended a lecture, checked his emails on the law faculty at Victoria University then set off the get some mail from the previous flat.

He arrived round 5.30pm at the Wavell St flat where David Gates now lived alone. David and Gavin had another confrontation. David punched Gavin and knocked him to the ground. He continued to kick Gavin in the head sending spots of blood behind the door.

David Gates then manually strangled the life out of Gavin Dash. After his last breath, Gates removed Gavin’s upper clothing. First wrapping his head in a cut up grey blanket, Gates stuffed Gavin’s body headfirst into a sleeping bag and zipped it up.

Leaving the body in a spare bedroom, it was several days before Gates placing it in his Bedford van and drove it to nearby summit of Makara Hill. Dragging the body 400m along a path and 22m off the walking track and into heavy bush, Gates then dumped it and returned to his van.

Gavin’s flatmates began to worry the day after his disappearance. They hadn’t seen him the previous evening and his bed had not been slept in. It was very out of character. Even more out of character was the sudden disappearance of most of Gavin’s belongings a couple of days later. The police were convinced at this time that they were merely dealing with a missing persons report. This is what Gates had been hoping for as he single-handedly removed all Gavin’s belongings from his new flat.

However, Gavin’s family was not happy with the missing persons theory at all. Hiring a private investigator, they travelled to Wellington to begin investigation of their own. They knew their son would not just disappear and not let them know. They also had no belief that Gavin may have committed suicide, he had even sent an upbeat email to his sister who was soon to return to New Zealand from Australia a couple of days before his disappearance requesting a wombat as a gift.

Meanwhile David Gates was plotting his cover-up to get away with the murder he had committed. He removed two pieces of bloods
The question on everyone’s mind at the time was; did Gavin simply return and collect his things, (without telling his flat mates), or was something more sinister a possibility?
tained carpet in the flat and disposed of them in such a manner that they still have not been recovered.

At least one month after he dragged to body to it’s resting place, David Gates returned to Gavin’s decomposing body with scissors, a sharp axe and some Wellington City Council rubbish bags.

Exposing Gavin’s neck by cutting the sleeping bag off, Gates used the axe to remove the head. Placing the head still wrapped in the grey blanket in one of the rubbish bags; he stuffed it in the hollow of an upturned tree. Following this he stripped the rest of the body and removed all identifying items, including glasses, watch and wallet. All items were double bagged and placed in the hollow of the tree.

Visiting an acquaintance in Plimmerton, David Gates went through Gavin’s property, cutting most of it into bits.

He put some pieces outside for rubbish collection that day and Gavin’s license in the vacuum cleaner bag. Leaving Gavin’s suitcase behind the couch he returned to the Wavell St flat until Patterson asked him to leave so it could be readied for sale.

At approximately the same time in November, as he was asked to leave the flat, the private investigator for the Dash family contacted him. The police at this time had still not been in contact with him.

It wasn’t until December 1999 that the police became interested in Gates. Following his departure from Wavell St flat, he had had a stay in Rowena’s Lodge in Mt Victoria and then travelled south, stopping in Dunedin and Queenstown. By Christmas he was in Nelson.

In January he arrived in Wellington to re-enlist in the Territorial Army, where he passed all the tests with extremely high marks. Before long he returned to Dash’s dismembered body. Taking a yellow spade from his mother’s house he buried the remains and then hid the spade behind his parent’s woodpile.

Finally in February and March 2000, the police spoke to Gates on two separate occasions and the investigation was beefed-up. 18 investigators were quickly allocated to the case. While David Gates denied any involvement in the killing, some of the errors he had made in statements to police started to gather against him. Gate’s blood had been found in Dash’s new room on the curtains and wardrobe and he had sold/given away some of Gavin’s belongings to family and friends.

By April 2000 the police had seized David Gates Bedford van and his Ford Laser. After talking to the police Gates was committed in accordance with the Mental Health Act.

Finally in June 2000, police charged David Gates with the murder of missing student Gavin Dash. He was also charged with the burglary of Dash’s flat. At this stage there was still no sign of the missing body. However it was not long until the graves containing Gavin Dash’s body parts were located. Gates was held in the hospital right up to his trail date in August 2001.

On the 6th of August David Gates admitted to the murder and the burglary but pleaded not guilty on the grounds that he was legally insane at the time.

Many people appeared as witnesses for the defence, including Gates family.

David’s father John Gates, 61, said his son attacked him for his Freemasonry, saying it had harmed the family's spirituality, and called his father a sidekick of the devil.

Mr Gates considered having David committed in 1999, just before he answered the ‘flatmate wanted’ ad, but was worried that the focus of David’s anger would change to his mother and sister. He also revealed that after his son had been committed and charged with Dash’s murder, David had rung and told him that he had killed Gavin Dash because he was evil and may hurt his new flatmates.

Psychiatrists from both sides agreed that David Gates had schizophrenia, which had developed over several years. The more people that spoke about Gates the clearer it became that he was not functioning in a normal manner.

When his mother and brother Stuart spoke they mentioned that David Gates had lived with Mark Middleton, the stepfather of murdered schoolgirl Karla Cardno. Both mother and brother said that Middleton had been a bad influence on David and introduced him to smoking, religious, and racist ideas.

David Gates had also suffered delusion including one where he was a prophet and another that his father and siblings were having incestuous relationships.

03 September 2001, after 8 hours of deliberation the jury returned the verdict. David Gates was found not guilty of the murder of Gavin Dash due to insanity. Of the burglary of Gavin Dash’s flat however, the jury found him guilty

The Dash family were very disappointed at the verdict.


Police Make Dash Murder Arrest
A 26 year old Wellington man has been charged with the murder of Gavin Dash and also charged with burglary; police say he was known to Dash.   read story...
Police find remains of murder victim Gavin Dash. Accused name released.
On Thursday, 29 June 2000, police found the burial site of Gavin Dash on a hillside in Makara.   read story...

Back to Murder Index
 

The mystery behind the events leading up to the Wellington disappearance of 24-year-old Gavin Dash in September 1999 may be revealed with the arrest of the person police believe is responsible.

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