Top cop sees wife, mate drown before daughter's wedding

Ara Tapu near Vaimaanga, where Judith Palmer and Robert Groves drowned. Her daughter Vanessa Palmer and Rhys Woodgerwere (pictured) to have been married yesterday. Photo / Supplied
Ara Tapu near Vaimaanga, where Judith Palmer and Robert Groves drowned. Her daughter Vanessa Palmer and Rhys Woodgerwere (pictured) to have been married yesterday. Photo / Supplied

NEW Zealand's longest-serving police officer saw his wife and best mate drown the day before his daughter's wedding in Rarotonga.

Yesterday, instead of walking daughter Vanessa up the aisle, Chief Inspector John Palmer was consoling her as they grieved for Judith Lorraine Palmer, known as Judy.

Mrs Palmer, 62, had been swimming in a lagoon at Vaimaanga when she got into trouble. Robert Groves, a close family friend and neighbour, tried to help but both drowned.

Mr Palmer was at the lagoon and is said to be devastated. He and Mrs Palmer had been married for 42 years and the couple had been planning the trip to the Cook Islands, where Vanessa and her partner Rhys Woodger live, for months.

He was too upset to speak to the Herald last night, but issued a statement through a family spokesman.

"He doesn't want to answer any questions about this tragedy," Bob Palmer said.

"He just wants to basically acknowledge the support extended over here. John, Vanessa and his family are devastated by the tragic events which resulted in the loss of a loving wife, mother and sister.

"John and his family have been overwhelmed by the support and love extended them by the greater New Zealand police family.

"Our sincere thanks also go to the New Zealand High Commissioner and his team at Rarotonga for their support.

"The support from the Rarotongan community and John and Vanessa's friends and family has been outstanding and is a great comfort to us all as we deal with this tragedy."

The wedding was postponed. It is expected the bodies will be brought back to Auckland for funeral services.

It is understood Mr Groves' wife, Mary, is also in Rarotonga.

Locals recovered the bodies from the lagoon, near where the group were staying for the wedding, about an hour after the pair drowned.

Mr Palmer has been a police officer for almost 47 years, mostly in Auckland. He is the only remaining chief inspector in New Zealand.

Auckland City district commander Superintendent Mike Clement said the double tragedy had hit Mr Palmer and his wider family "hard".

"We are all reeling from the news and can only imagine the magnitude of the devastation John, his family and the Groves family are feeling," Mr Clement said.

"I know personally that the trip to Rarotonga for Vanessa's wedding was to be the highlight of the year for John and Judy and that much planning and anticipation surrounded it.

"I and Commissioner Peter Marshall have spoken with John on several occasions in the past 24 hours and have offered our absolute support and assistance to help him, his daughter and their friends through this very distressing time."

Topics:  editors picks new zealand tragedy weddings

Supercell hailstorm to smash city 'biggest this year'

WEATHER: Thunderstorms will hit the Central and North Burnett for the rest of the week.

Storm with stretch from Dalby to Brisbane

Another store leaves Ipswich mall

SHUT DOWN: R.M. Williams in the Ipswich Mall has closed with Wednesday as their last day of trading.

R.M. Williams no longer has a store in Ipswich

Region taking a stand for child safety at Walk for Daniel

ON BOARD: Ipswich will support the Daniel Morcombe Foundation on the National Day of Action.

Ipswich community to get behind the cause

Local Partners

Workmates honour crash victim with tribute

UPDATE: Tanya Lyell is being remembered as a young mother dedicated to her family and work as the town she called home mourns its loss.

WATCH: NASA space station is live, see the view from above

In this picture taken from NASA's International Space Station from April 2015, the SpaceX Dragon is captured with the 57.7-foot-long Canadarm2 robotic arm before its installation to the Harmony module.

See the world from a new perspective as space station passes Rocky

Artist feeds us pop straight from heart

FEED THE BEAST: Singer-songwriter Emma Dean is this week's featured artist.

Emerge's Calen Le Couteur recently caught up with Emma Dean

Your guide to a great night out in Ipswich

Dennis Knight and the Black Cats play Club Services Ipswich Saturday night

Check out some live entertainment this weekend

ABBA to reunite for virtual live experience


ABBA have confirmed they are to reunite - in virtual reality form

Hugh Laurie receives star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hugh Laurie on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hugh Laurie and his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Blake Lively hosts 40th party for Ryan Reynolds

Blake Lively throws husband Ryan Reynold's 40th birthday bash

What's on the big screen this week

Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from the movie Doctor Strange.

MARVEL'S latest superhero Doctor Strange makes his debut.

Trump 'worked like hell' to pick up John Travolta's wife

John Travolta and Kelly Preston

Trump wrote comments in tribute to Travolta's son Jett

RECAP: The Bachelorette S2E11 - top three battle it out

The Bachelorette finalists, from left, Matty Johnson, Lee Elliott and Jake Ellis.

It's Matty, Lee or Jake. Who will Georgia choose?

Tough times in CBD: Woolies says goodbye Ipswich

Woolworths in the Ipswich Mall.Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times

The last day of trading will be January 1

Is Woolworths departure good news for Ipswich CBD?

Artist impression of the Ipswich Mall for the rejuvenation project to be undertaken by Ipswich City Properties

Council is on track to release a detailed plan before December

Look at me! Kath and Kim home up for sale

Kath and Kim from the iconic Aussie TV series.

'Crack open the Baileys and grab a box of BBQ Shapes'

How to fit 100,000 new homes on the Coast

Property, real estate, housing, suburb,  August 2016

Fitting 2m extra people in south-east Qld in 25 years a balance

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?