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Fundraiser for family of Kiwi lawyer Mitch East killed in suspected hit-and-run raises over $32,000 in four hours

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A fundraiser for the family of a young Kiwi lawyer killed in a suspected hit-and-run in Australia has raised more than $32,000 in four hours.

Mitch East, 28, was hit by a car just as he stepped out of an Uber early on Sunday morning. He died at the scene in east Sydney’s Tamarama about 4am, Australia’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

A GoFundMe page set up in memory of East said he would “always be remembered for his hilarious, yet kind nature and his incredible ability to befriend everyone he met”.

“Mitch’s time was far from up and he had so much life left and love to give.”

At the time of writing, the fundraising page had raised A$30,131 ($32,476), just four hours after it was set up.

Prominent names on the list of donations include All Black Anton Lienert-Brown and Blackcap Tim Seifert, who each donated $500.

“While his family, friends and girlfriend attempt to come to terms with the grief of losing someone so loved, we are trying to relieve some of the financial pressure and stress that comes with such a loss,” the page read.

“We understand entirely that right now, people are doing it tough themselves so appreciate any donation, albeit big or small.”

Passers-by found East unconscious on Fletcher St on Sunday morning.

One of New Zealand’s Supreme Court judges has voiced his grief about the killing of East this afternoon.

Justice Sir William Young told the Herald East was “seriously intelligent”.

East completed a postgraduate degree at Harvard University in the United States. He completed his honours degree at the University of Otago.

As well as accepting the Frank Knox scholarship for Harvard, East was offered full scholarships for Cambridge University in Britain and New York University.

Mitch East, 28, died after being hit by a car in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Mitch East, 28, died after being hit by a car in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

Justice Young detailed East’s achievements at university; winning the Deans’ Scholar Prizes in two of his subjects as well as obtaining his Master of Laws.

“As this indicates, Mitch was seriously intelligent. He was also hard-working, insightful, and empathetic,” Justice Young said.

“He was a remarkable man with the most extraordinary, infectious, and often self-deprecating sense of humour. He was huge fun to work with – an all-round great guy.

“Mitch’s death in Sydney is a shocking tragedy, particularly for his parents and his partner and a terrible waste of a life that held so much promise.”

Before studying at Harvard, East was Justice Young’s clerk.

One of East’s law professors remembered his former student as someone “full of much promise and potential”.

University of Otago professor Andrew Geddis called his former student “an extraordinarily accomplished young lawyer”, outlining the scholarships he was offered, the high-flying positions he worked and how he still remained humble.

“We have an idea of what we’d like the ‘New Zealand character’ to be; someone who achieves highly, is incredibly able, but at the same time doesn’t think too much of themselves. And that was Mitch. He really did capture that,” Geddis told the Herald.

“There is no doubt, academically, he was extremely able and the work he did was extremely important. Beyond that though, he was just a really nice guy.”

Regarding his scholarships, Geddis said: “I literally don’t know of any other New Zealanders who have had all three institutions offer full scholarships to them.”

East was working for major law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler in Australia, the Daily Telegraph said.

Before he moved to Australia, he worked as a solicitor for Meredith Connell, as a senior adviser for the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terror attack, and as a clerk to Justice Young.

“Only three or four people a year go into that role [at the Supreme Court],” Geddis said.

“He excelled – I mean, he did very, very well.”

Even with his achievements, East was still “down to earth”, Geddis said.

“What you would expect from that kind of recitation [list] of accomplishments is that he would have spent all his time in the library and would have been quite arrogant – but he just wasn’t like that.

“He was very down to earth, very easygoing, and had a very wide circle of friends. The outpouring on social media from his classmates attests to just how well-liked he was.

“There was so much promise there, and so much potential, and he was only just starting to reach it. Then this lightning bolt of fate happens. It’s really, really sad.”

East’s death has left his family distraught.

Australian cops search for vehicle involved

Police are looking for a white SUV, captured on CCTV camera in the area where East was killed.

Detective Assistant Superintendent Adam Solah told the Daily Telegraph: “The family are obviously very upset and distraught, and our hearts go out to them, having to find out such difficult news.”

Police had “extensive” footage of the incident, but could not confirm whether it was a hit-and-run, the Daily Telegraph said.

The hit-and-run was a theory that was “forming part of [police’s] lines of inquiry”, Solah told the Daily Telegraph.

Police were “looking at all avenues”, he said.

“We encourage anyone who has dashcam footage or … CCTV that hasn’t been yet provided to police, we urge you to come forward and provide that footage,” Solah told the Daily Telegraph.

Solah also wanted anyone who saw East or who may have been involved in the incident to contact Bondi police or Australia’s Crimestoppers on (+64) 1800 333 000.

East was wearing a blue button-up shirt and tan-coloured shorts when he died, the Daily Telegraph said.

Raphael Franks is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He joined the Herald as a Te Rito cadet in 2022.

Benjamin Plummer is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He has worked for the Herald since 2022.

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