12 Jun 2010

Air rifles not toys, says Crown prosecutor

10:05 pm on 12 June 2010

A Crown prosecutor says the public must be made aware air rifles are not toys but extremely powerful weapons that have the capacity to kill.

An undercover police officer, Sergeant Don Wilkinson, was shot and killed with an air rifle after being discovered trying to install a tracking device on his car in Mangere, Auckland, in 2008.

At the High Court in Auckland on Friday a jury found John Skinner guilty of Sgt Wilkinson's murder.

Skinner, a suspected methamphetamine manufacturer, was also found guilty of the attempted murder of another officer working with Sgt Wilkinson that night, and the assault of a third policeman.

His co-accused, Iain Clegg, was found guilty of Sgt Wilkinson's manslaughter but not guilty on charges of murder and attempted murder.

Mr Moore says some technical issues raised during the trial include the fact that an air rifle can be a murderous weapon.

He says the modern technology of airguns makes them potentially lethal in the wrong hands.

'Entire family' are victims

The courtroom was crowded, with Mr Wilkinson's mother expressing relief as the 11-1 majority verdicts on all counts were read out.

However, the police officer's family says the guilty verdicts will never fill the void in their lives. Spokesperson Robert Lawrie says Sgt Wilkinson's entire family are victims.

"Our family deeply feels the loss of Don every day," he said. "We as family, friends and colleagues have a permanent void in our lives that can never be filled."

Mr Lawrie thanked the police for their hard work and support since Mr Wilkinson's death.

Skinner's wife will push for appeal

Outside the court, Skinner's wife, Tina Preece, said she believes her husband was found guilty only because the victim was a police officer.

"Had it been a normal person off the street, had it actually been a thug, had it actually been a criminal ... the verdict would have been totally different, and everybody knows that."

Ms Preece says she will continue to stand by her husband and will encourage him to appeal against the decision.

She says the verdict has left her children without a father.