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Conviction for boy's murder quashed

Published: 8:16PM Thursday June 02, 2011 Source: Fairfax

A man accused of killing a 14-year-old has seen his murder conviction quashed and a new trial ordered.

Nathan Tuiti Reo Mutunga Williams was found guilty of killing 14-year-old John Hapeta by bashing his head with a hammer during a birthday party in Weymouth, south Auckland, in August 2008.

Williams was 23-years-old at the time.

He was sentenced last year to serve at least 14 years in jail.

The police case against Williams was that he and two mates - Daniel Bobby Tumata and a third man who has name suppression - had gone to Hapeta's home because it was a well known "tinnie house".

According to the Crown, they were dressed in black with bandanas covering their faces, and armed with a claw hammer and pistol they intended to commit a stand-over robbery to get drugs.

But it ended with Hapeta being hit twice in the head with the hammer and dying.

Tumata was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter.

Williams appealed against his conviction - and at the same time the Solicitor-General also went to the Court of Appeal saying the sentence was not tough enough.

The Court of Appeal has ruled William's murder conviction must be overturned and a new trial held - but it has also ruled the reasons for this decision are suppressed.

Williams has also won the right to go back to the High Court and ask for bail.

As for the Solicitor-General's appeal against the sentence, because a new trial has been ordered, his appeal was dismissed.

Last year when Williams was sentenced, Hapeta's mother Patricia Pokaihau-Rogers said her heart was broken after losing a son with a "kind and beautiful soul".

She said "John Hapeta was not a drug dealer''.

"He was a confused and frightened 14-year-old boy who didn't get the help, guidance and support that we as a family so desperately tried to seek.

"He was proud to be who he was and we are proud to have loved him."

During the original trial the Crown said Hapeta died after Williams and Tumata turned up at the house and demanded drugs. When he said he didn't have any, the Crown said Williams hit him with the hammer.

The Crown alleged he was killed because he failed to make payments on an airgun he bought from another boy, who wanted to be paid in cannabis.

Williams' lawyer at the trial, Marie Dyhrberg, said he had not instigated the robbery. (Williams was represented by a different lawyer at the Court of Appeal case).

Williams had expressed remorse to Hapeta's family but still maintained his innocence, Dyhrberg said.

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