23 Jun 2015

Teen found guilty of manslaughter

5:17 pm on 23 June 2015

The widow of Arun Kumar wept as the verdicts were delivered today in the trial of the two boys accused of a fatal dairy robbery that left her husband dead. A 14-year-old was found guilty of the manslaughter of the Auckland dairy owner and a 13-year-old was found not guilty.

Arun Kumar's son Shivneel Kumar outside the High Court in Auckland after the jury's verdict.

Arun Kumar's son Shivneel Kumar: "My dad's death should not go in vain." Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Mr Kumar, 57, died after being stabbed in his Henderson shop in June 2014. His son, Shivneel Kumar, read a statement outside court after the verdict, with his mother by his side.

He said the family was "extremely disappointed" at today's verdict.

"We were told that it is New Zealand law that if you commit an armed robbery and someone is killed, you are guilty of murder. We were wrong," he said.

"For the past four weeks, we have re-lived the worst day of our lives, we have found the court process very stressful and have had numerous sleepless nights as a result.

Arun Kumar.

Arun Kumar Photo: NZ POLICE

"Every day, we sat in court as a family and listened to the horrific details and excuses - at times it felt as if we were the offenders... We endured countless re-runs of our dad's last moments."

The jury deciding the case returned its verdict about 12.30pm at the High Court in Auckland.

The teenage boys have had name suppression continued until a court hearing about the issue next month.

Their families were in court as the verdict was announced.

Justice Lang had asked those in the public gallery to remain calm and respect the jurors' verdict.

The jurors retired at 12.15 yesterday. This morning they asked to watch the footage captured by the dairy's security camera again.

As the clip was played, Mrs Kumar could be heard sobbing in the back of court.

Arun Kumar's wife Anita Kumar outside the High Court in Auckland after the jury's verdict.

Arun Kumar's wife Anita Kumar outside the High Court in Auckland after the jury's verdict. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Mr Kumar's son, Shivneel Kumar, said they did not want another family to ever experience the loss they had suffered, and hoped that lessons would be learned from Mr Kumar's death.

"We are now living in a society where the kids are on drugs, roaming in our streets with weapons at the ready. It should never have come to this," he said.

"My dad's death should not go in vain."

Court repeatedly shown footage

During his summing up to the court last week, Crown prosecutor Kieran Raftery took the jurors through the security footage, which he said showed that the stabbing was not self-defence.

It shows Mr Kumar initially asking his wife to bring him the phone in order to call the police.

But, before she could give it to him, the 14-year-old knocked it from her hand and pulled out a knife.

Mrs Kumar ran out of the shop to raise the alarm while Mr Kumar retreated behind the counter. But the boy followed.

Mr Kumar initially picked up a box of straws and then put them down. When the boy was almost on him, Mr Kumar pulled out from under the counter a hollow metal pole - similar to a short length of vacuum cleaner pole.

By the time Mr Kumar had the pole, the boy was close enough to grab it.

Mr Raftery said the 14-year-old then stabbed Mr Kumar, landing a blow in his abdomen and then his shoulder.

The third and final wound struck Mr Kumar in the neck. There was a fourth lunge but Mr Kumar was able to push the boy away and the teen ran from the dairy.

Flowers placed outside the dairy owned by Arun Kumar.

Flowers placed outside the dairy owned by Arun Kumar. Photo: RNZ

Mr Raftery said he understood the defence would say it was the boy who was defending himself against Mr Kumar - an idea he strongly rejected.

He said the way the boy went after Mr Kumar behind the counter was not a defensive action and it was Mr Kumar who was the victim from start to finish.

He also said that the 13-year-old facing the charge of manslaughter did not run away from the dairy until after Mrs Kumar wrestled the metal pole from him.

Earlier in the week, the court heard from the 13-year-old's lawyer, David Niven, who said the boys had only planned to break into the local shoe shop - not to hurt anyone.

He also played the footage captured on the dairy's security cameras, and pointed out that as soon as the 14-year-old pulled out his knife, his client backed out of the doorway.

Mr Niven said his client never used his weapon and could not have anticipated what the other boy would do. He also said his client ran before the other boy fatally stabbed Mr Kumar.

Mr Niven also spoke of his client's brain damage, due to his mother drinking while she was pregnant. He said the boy had a low IQ and couldn't even name all the months of the year.

Critical period lasted just six seconds

The 14-year-old's lawyer, Maria Pecotic, also spoke of her client's background.

At the time of the stabbing, the boy was living in his mother's home where drugs were being sold and he had developed an addiction to synthetic cannabis.

Ms Pecotic reminded the jurors that her client had suffered a severe brain injury when he was hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing, causing a fracture to his skull.

She summed up the evidence from a neuropsychologist who found the brain injury made the boy impulsive when he was faced with complex situations.

She said the dairy was one of those situations.

Ms Pecotic said there was very little time for the boys to come up with a plan. She said, once inside, the critical period of the incident lasted just six seconds and, in that time, Mr Kumar armed himself with a steel pole and her client responded by stabbing him three times.

Ms Pecotic said, when the stabbing happened, her client was walking backwards and, shortly before he made the fatal lunge, Mr Kumar had grabbed at the boy's neck and upper torso area.