Found dead in a halfway house: Fashion writer, stylist and actress Tania Ellwood
This is the New Zealand halfway house run by a former Motown star where an actress and a convicted rapist were found dead in a shocking double fatality.
The bodies of Tania Ellwood, 39, and Timothy Hamilton, 36, were discovered at Dryden’s Lodge, a sprawling home for vagrants and Auckland’s most vulnerable, on March 6.
Mystery surrounds why Ms Ellwood and Hamilton were even together in a tiny unit on the basement level of the four-storey estate.
Relatives raised the alarm when they did not hear from Ms Ellwood in the first week of March, but little did they know the tragedy that had occurred.
Described by mates a ‘bubbly’ blonde and a ‘gorgeous, gorgeous soul’, Ms Ellwood a well known stylist and a former fashion writer for top magazines.
She was once cast for a role in Shortland Street, New Zealand’s equivalent of Neighbours or Coronation Street, although she did not play an onscreen role.
The bodies of Ms Ellwood and Mr Hamilton were found at Dryden Lodge (pictured), in Auckland’s inner suburb of Grey Lynn, in early March
The bodies of Ms Ellwood (left) and Timothy Hamilton (right) were found together inside the halfway house in Grey Lynn, in Auckland’s inner suburbs. Police are not investigating homicide
This is the entrance to the downstairs level of the boarding house where both Ms Ellwood and Mr Hamilton were found dead on March 6
She was last seen by her partner who dropped her off at the bank as he left town on a work trip.
Days later, Ms Ellwood missed her father’s birthday celebrations and did not respond to messages or calls.
Her sister Katrina issued a cry for help on Facebook and police went public with a plea for information.
Tragically, Ms Ellwood and Hamilton were already dead.
The same day as the police plea, a maintenance worker found the man and woman’s bodies inside an apartment Hamilton had rented just a week before.
‘It was like something out of a horror movie,’ one resident said, describing the scene in an interview with the New Zealand Herald.
In a bizarre twist, the property was later revealed to be owned by Ronald Lapread – Lionel Richie’s former bassist in the American R&B supergroup, the Commodores.
The Alabama band were one of the biggest of the 1970s – supporting the Jackson Five for three years – and some of Lapread’s clothes are even ’embalmed’ in museums in the United States.
Another view of the halfway house – which is home to vagrants and houses some of Auckland’s most vulnerable people
Bikes and kids’ scooters were strewn in a small courtyard on a lower level of the estate
Ron Lapread (back row) is pictured here with his wife and pop superstar Michael Jackson
Mr Lapread’s Facebook page still features several pictures of himself with Michael Jackson. He even claimed to be his protege.
‘Michael Jackson is my mentor,’ he told Noted.co.nz.
‘He taught me everything about the business.’
Lapread and his Iranian wife have long housed more than a hundred tenants across two boarding houses in the city – most down on their luck.
New Zealand police Detective Senior Sergeant Glenn Baldwin told Daily Mail Australia that officers are ‘not treating the incident as a homicide.’
A bunch of flowers were rested on the door of the room once occupied by Tania Ellwood and Timothy Hamilton
A note with reference to ‘Princess Meow Meow’ was also left outside the room of the deceased
But the deaths have left some tenants and the owner of the home a little jumpy. Mr Lapread declined an interview request through his son.
A prominent tenant at the residence, Junior, did not want to speak about the deaths but said: ‘We’ve got some odd ones that come in here, the village idiots.
‘But we are like a community in here. We look after each other.’
Tenants smoked out the front and walked the hallways shirtless as music boomed from their tiny rooms.
The estate showed signs of age and features communal bathroom and kitchen spaces.
The reception area was abandoned and a large sign out the front stipulated some strict rules, including ‘all tenants must be … free of odour’.
Lapread was the bassist for Lionel Richie’s R&B band The Commodores in the 1970s (seen with Michael Jackson)
‘We are like a community here, we look after each other,’ a local resident known as Junior said
Both Ms Ellwood and Mr Hamilton have been buried and police have confirmed a coronial investigation is underway.
‘Police have provided information to the families to help better understand the circumstances surrounding both deaths and support them to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones,’ Mr Baldwin said.
‘The evidence that is gathered will be provided to the Coroner, who is ultimately responsible for determining the causes of the two deaths.’