After fighting for all of his 18 years, Taniela Kotoitoga Daven Tiako Waitokia ended his High Court sentencing for murder with another struggle in court.
He was given a life sentence with a non-parole term of 11 years 6 months by Justice Cameron Mander for the bashing murder of 87-year-old Harold Richardson in his Upper Riccarton home.
As he was formally given the jail term, Waitokia stood in the dock and a well dressed woman in the public seats also stood.
As the court adjourned, the woman stepped forward and hugged Waitokia as he leaned over the dock.
The one Corrections officer in court struggled to stop them, but eventually got them apart and Waitokia was taken to the cell doorway, calling out, “Love you, cuz.”
Escort staff at court prevent contact with members of the public because it is seen as an easy opportunity to pass contraband to prisoners.
Waitokia was a drugged-up 16-year-old when he committed the murder on August 1, 2015, when he went to the home of the elderly hoarder who had a reputation for buying stolen gear off local youths.
Waitokia could not explain the attack on a man he knew and liked. He was certainly the person who tried to make Harold Richardson more comfortable by placing cushions under his head as he lay dying after the attack.
He took alcohol and electronic items from the Upper Riccarton flat that was packed with goods and then he left. When biked to where he was living, he told his “auntie” that he had done something serious. He was told that he was not allowed to socialise and the boy who had just committed a murder was sent to his room. He went, like a disobedient child.
He had also called at the Odyssey House youth unit twice that night, seeking help because he apparently felt he was in crisis. He left a note on the first visit when everyone was out, and he could not stay on the second visit because he was already stoned.
Contradictions about Waitokia and his victim emerged all through the sentencing, where defence counsel Jonathan Eaton QC urged the court to see the “goodness” deep inside Waitokia and not regard him as a lost cause.
Through his childhood and early teenage years, Waitokia was exposed to violence, gang culture, criminal offending, and drug use. He had used cannabis and alcohol since his pre-teen years, and had used cannabis and synthetic cannabis daily in recent years.
He fought often, at school and youth facilities. That led to expulsions and leaving school early. He had issues with truancy and learning difficulties.
Mr Eaton said he did not have convictions for violence even though he was reported as “fighting all the time”.
“That suggests he is somebody who doesn’t stand down, and fights for others,” said Mr Eaton.
Waitokia has made gang connections in prison, but in spite of his aggressive behaviour and bravado, he has been diagnosed with low mood and suicidal thoughts.
The sentencing heard about Mr Richardson’s background for the first time. He has no family in New Zealand, but Justice Mander had received a victim impact statement from his brother in Britain.
Mr Richardson had joined the British Army after leaving school, and served with the New Zealand Prison Service until his retirement. He had a close relationship with a woman he nursed for many years before her death.
He was described as a friendly and kindly man, but his condition deteriorated five or six years ago and he became something of a recluse.
“He was remembered by his brother and family as a person who had led a full and productive life and his death has come as a shock to them, and caused deep sadness,” said the judge.
Justice Mander said it had been “a sustained and brutal attack” in which Waitokia had bashed Mr Richardson 14 times with a bottle he picked up at the flat, continuing to strike him after the bottle shattered.
Waitokia had been amped on drugs on the night of the murder. There were conflicting accounts on whether he had taken methamphetamine. Drug use is not regarded as a mitigating factor.
The Crown had suggested that the necessary elements were present for a 17-year non-parole term, but Justice Mander ruled that it would be “manifestly unjust” to impose such a long term. Age did not excuse Waitokia’s commission of such a grave crime, but his immaturity at the time had to be assessed.
He imposed a life jail term, with a non-parole term of 11 years 6 months. The 18-year-old cannot be considered for parole until that term has been served.