More accusations of Jehovah's Witnesses 'preying' on grief video

The Dominion Post, New Zealand/May 31 2016

By Tom Hunt

Jehovah's Witnesses are being accused of "religious marketing" as another grieving Wellington woman reveals she was sent marketing guff from the religion.

This week, Aro Valley woman Jean Sergent-Shadbolt spoke out after a hand-delivered, hand-written letter arrived from a Jehovah's Witness, three months to the day since the well-publicised death of her close friend and flatmate Michael Boyes.

After her story was published, Wellington woman Sandra Reid was among those who got in touch to say it was not an isolated incident.

Her father, Louis Patterson, died in March this year and, in obituary notices in newspapers, she listed a post office box to which people could send condolence messages.

Inside was Jehovah's Witness literature and a hand-written note, which was binned by her husband.

She believed the act of sending unsolicited religious material to grieving people was "totally inappropriate" and akin to "religious marketing".

"It's preying on the vulnerability of people ... I felt really uncomfortable, it was kind of creepy. They had gone through the obituary and then sent it to me the week after the death of my father."

She had no issues with Jehovah's Witnesses, and did not believe the grief-targeting was a strategy of the religion. But she did believe a Wellington group, or lone person, was targeting those close to people who had recently died.

Meanwhile, Sue Roberts, the Jehovah's Witness who wrote the letter to Sergent-Shadbolt, reiterated on Tuesday that she had no idea Boyes had died, and said timing was an unfortunate coincidence.

Sergent-Shadbolt had intended to go to her address and knock on the door, in a conscious effort to turn the tables on the Jehovah's Witness. But the address on the letter was that of Wellington West Jehovah's Witness co-ordinator Ron Winiata, who apologised to Sergent-Shadbolt.

Roberts said she would be happy for Sergent-Shadbolt to phone her, though she would not immediately be supplying her own address.

"I know I'm being non-committal," she said.

Sergent-Shadbolt said she was still deciding whether to get in touch.

Winiata has been approached for comment about the fresh allegations of his religion targeting grief.

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