DICKSON Eva Helen
Civilian, Aramoana Massacre
Mrs. Dickson was a resident at Aramoana when a man ran amok with a firearm on 13th November 1990. After hearing shots being fired, Mrs. Dickson went to investigate and found smoke coming from a neighbour's house. As Mrs. Dickson endeavoured to prevent a man walking in the direction of the shooting, the gunman appeared and began firing shots. With two artificial hips and restricted arm movements through surgery Mrs. Dickson, aged 72, was unable to run for cover and ushered the now wounded man to the roadside where they both fell to the ground. Mrs. Dickson ascertained the man had been seriously wounded in the lower back and was unable to move. With a display of great courage and resource Mrs. Dickson dragged herself to a nearby telephone booth where she urgently summoned an ambulance and Police. She then crawled approximately 100 metres back to the wounded man and comforted him. Concerned at the delay in medical aid Mrs. Dickson then crawled to her home and made further emergency calls. The injured man was rescued by Police but later died of his wounds. Mrs. Dickson continued a tense vigil communicating the gunman's nocturnal activities to Police by telephone throughout the night. Mrs. Dickson's selfless and humane actions in staying with the wounded man in the face of grave danger and conveying situation reports to Police while alone at night with the constant fear of the gunman's appearance, are deserving of the highest praise.
Born 28 September 1919
Died 8 February 2007 Dunedin, New Zealand
Ashes burial Anderson's Bay Cemetery, Dunedin (Block 147. Plot 150)
Stolen medal saga's difficult unwinding
10 March 2010
Some time after Eva Helen Dickson's death, her son, Alistair, brought the George Medal, awarded to her for bravery in the Aramoana tragedy, into the Port Chalmers Museum and signed a long-term loan agreement. Errors were made by the museum staff member when accepting this medal, with the most obvious no date on the loan form. Very few people were aware this medal had been accepted into the museum and apparently placed in a convenient cupboard. Other evidence indicates this medal was accepted into the museum in May 2007. After the first television screening in 2008 of the Aramoana tragedy film Out of the Blue, Kris Smith, no relation but seemingly a close friend of the Dickson family, went to the museum to view the medal. I have not been able to find out who the museum staff member was who dealt with this matter and told Ms Smith that the medal could not be found. This fact was not passed on to me or any other committee member. There was absolutely no search made for the medal at this time. With the luxury of hindsight, this medal was in all probability not now on the premises. I believe on August 1, 2009, Out of the Blue was repeated on television and the following day Ms Smith came to the museum wanting to see the medal. This time, she dealt with a conscientious museum staff member, who immediately after this visit alerted me by email having had no success in locating this medal. The same evening, I telephoned Ms Smith at her home, wanting to know more of what she knew, as well as informing her of the search for the medal I had organised for the next day. On Monday, August 3, 2009, a methodical, careful and intensive search was made of the museum. The same morning, I had the lock changed on the only access door to the museum,
followed in the afternoon by making a complaint to the Dunedin police. (The Port Chalmers police station is frequently closed because of a reduction in staff.) The police at this time regarded this matter as one of "lost property", even though I insisted that I was sure this medal had been stolen. About three weeks later, I received a call from Bill O'Brien, who had written a book on the Aramoana tragedy and, in the process, had formed a close working relationship with the Dickson family. Mr O'Brien told me he had been approached by the Dickson family to act on their behalf concerning the medal, and requested of me as to whether it would be all right for him to come to the museum to do another search. I agreed and we both undertook another intensive futile search of the museum that ended with Mr O'Brien now concurring with me that the medal should be treated as stolen. At no time did Ms Smith take part or co-ordinate in any search. Two strategies were suggested by Mr O'Brien to try and find the medal. Firstly, the loss could be broadcast through the media and an amnesty made with "no questions asked", so long as the medal was returned in good condition. The other was to inform dealers and wait and see what happened. There were inherent risks with undertaking an amnesty, as the thief might take fright and dispose of the medal in a way it could never be found. We were both fully aware that once the recipient dies no replacement medal can be issued. Replicas can be obtained but, in my opinion, have absolutely no significance or value apart from looking genuine. After the O'Brien search, another museum staff member and I were interviewed by the Port Chalmers police. In the afternoon of January 13, 2010, I received an email from the on-duty museum staff member saying the medal had been found in good condition and in a place that had been searched many times before. That same day, I left messages to this effect on the answer phones of Ms Smith and Mr O'Brien and was only to receive a reply from Mr O'Brien. The late Mrs Dickson's George Medal was signed over by me to the Port Chalmers police on the afternoon of February 5, 2010. Even this may pose some problems as in the agreement only the lender, Alistair Dickson, had the right to uplift the medal from the museum. However, I have been informed that Alistair had been living overseas for a number of months and the Port Chalmers police told me, "we will keep the medal in safekeeping until the family are able to sort this matter out". Ms Smith was very critical in her comments of the Port Chalmers Museum. I knew the medal was stolen after the search on August 3, 2009, not after the O'Brien search. There was not eighteen months of searching, rather just over six months. Where she mentions lax security at the Port Chalmers Museum, Ms Smith should also be reminded that in other bigger museums, exhibits have also been stolen. With the actual perpetrator(s) of this theft not apprehended, a shadow of suspicion remains over other people who have in the past worked in the Port Chalmers Museum. I have complete trust in the people now working in the museum. I take full responsibility for the shortcomings that have come to light subsequent to knowing about this theft and the measures taken to try and rectify these deficiencies. I also apologise to the Dickson family that the organisation I at this time have been elected to lead did not provide the necessary security to their unique family treasure. The Port Chalmers Historical Society is very much aware of the limitations of the present museum building. Recently, we had a funding application for $293,000 (about the same amount of money now required to build a new, modest home) declined in an effort to build a modern, functional museum display building at the rear of the historic building. It was proposed to include in this building modern security and up-to-date fire protection systems. If there is any organisation or individual willing to financially assist I would be most keen to hear from them. If a new building were to be built, I would then feel a lot more comfortable in the fact that with additional security it would enhance the protection of the exhibits we have in our keeping.
• John Neilson is president of the Port Chalmers Historical Society.