Drugs robber still denies responsibility for death

A 29-year-old father-of-two has been jailed for four-and-a-half years still not accepting that he caused the drowning death of Arran Gairns when he was threatened and chased during a drugs robbery.

Kooly Tamagki Te Tomo was found guilty of manslaughter and assault with intent to rob at a week-long trial in the High Court at Timaru in May.

But at his probation interview ahead of his sentencing in the Christchurch High Court today, he said Mr Gairns’ death was “not my fault”.

Te Tomo was the fourth person jailed for manslaughter over the May 2014 death of Gairns during a methamphetamine shake-down.

Olivia Toby Frances Lucas, 29, and Verdun Ashley Perry, 26, were each jailed for three years seven months in June, after being found guilty at a trial. Forty-nine-year-old Desmond Kapi Marshall was jailed for four years eight months in August 2015, after he had pleaded guilty.

Some details of the case and the sentencings were suppressed at the time because of the continuing trials taking place.

Today, Mr Gairns’ family told of the enduring sadness of his loss. His stepfather, Michael Davies of Ashburton, referred to the “cowardly acts” by the group which had led to his death, when he was beaten, threatened and chased into an area of freezing ponds where he was found drowned 36 hours later. Lucas had lured him there for the group, knowing that he had methamphetamine.

Mr Davies said Gairns had been “betrayed, set up, chased, beaten, threatened, and chased again” before he ran into the dark ponding area at Ashburton to hide.

“I imagine the terror he felt as he lay in the freezing water as they searched for him,” Mr Davies told the court.

Family members who spoke at the sentencing said they would never forgive the group of robbers. “I have seen no remorse,” Mr Davies said.

Crown prosecutor Andrew McRae said Te Tomo had used violence and threats of violence, and had chased Mr Gairns. He urged that the sentence be increased because of his previous convictions.

Defence counsel James Rapley said Te Tomo had made a genuine offer to meet Mr Gairns’ family at a restorative justice conference but he understood why they had not wanted to do that.

He said no-one had intended that Mr Gairns would be killed. He had run away into an area where no-one would expect he would drown. He said Te Tomo had now heard victim impact statements from the family which were “articulate, heart-felt, and compelling”.

Justice Gerald Nation said Te Tomo’s actions had caused profound grief and stress to Mr Gairns’ family and partner. The victim’s family had endured a long ordeal through the court proceedings and trials.

What had happened arose from the way all of the group – including Mr Gairns – were using methamphetamine.

He told Te Tomo: “Your use of methamphetamine and the associates you kept as part of that have led to you being responsible for the death of someone not much older than you.”

Mr Gairns had travelled to Christchurch to buy methamphetamine on the day of his death, and Lucas had texted the group and then lured him to an area where the drugs robbery would take place. He had been assaulted and a machete held to his throat, and threatened with a “boot ride” before he ran into the dark ponding area.

He said Te Tomo and Lucas had been “at the forefront of what was going to happen”.

There was some hope that during his sentence, Te Tomo would realise how his drug use and associates had led him into this situation. He hoped there might be an opportunity at some stage to meet the victim’s family, when Te Tomo would be able to show what he had learned from what had happened.

Justice Nation read him a first strike warning after imposing the jail term.

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