7 Oct 2010

Tearful mayor makes apology at teen's inquest

8:07 pm on 7 October 2010

Auckland City mayor John Banks has made a tearful apology for his son taking alcohol to a party and encouraging another teenager, who later died, to drink.

Mr Banks broke down in tears while giving impromptu evidence on Thursday at the inquest into the death James Webster.

The 16-year-old boarder at King's College died on 9 May this year after drinking massive amounts of alcohol at a birthday party at the Returned Services Club in the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn.

Police say the teenager died of acute alcohol poisoning. The inquest was told he had an alcohol level nearly five times the limit for adult drivers, and 13 times the limit for someone his age.

The mayor's 16-year-old son was called as a witness at a coroner's inquest in Auckland on Thursday. In an unusual move, Mr Banks, who was not on the list of people to give evidence, was allowed to speak.

Alex Banks, who is under the legal drinking age, told the hearing he got a bottle of Jagermeister from his older brother, who is over 18, to take to the party. James Webster arrived at the party separately and had brought his own alcohol.

Alex Banks says the pair were doing shots and he encouraged James Webster to drink for fun. He says the 16-year-old got drunk very quickly and became "jelly-like".

The teenager says up to 20 people were drinking and parents at the party would have seen them. Earlier, witnesses told the inquest that they saw no young people drinking.

A tearful Mr Banks told Coroner Gordon Matenga he was speaking as a father and accepts responsibility for his son's actions.

"I'm coming before the court this afternoon, your honour, as a father to tell the Webster family that we love them and Mr Webster could just as easily be me giving this evidence now and my son could have been the deceased.

"I'm deeply saddened and bewildered at what I've heard today from this court."

Mr Banks says he has done his best to teach his sons what is right and broke down further as he left the witness box and the court on Thursday.

Teen asked for bottles of alcohol

Teenager Oscar Robinson also gave evidence on Thursday and said he was asked for help to get bottles of spirits because James Webster wanted to get "really drunk".

Oscar Robinson says liquor was sneaked into the party, one bottle at a time. He says another student, whose name is suppressed, got it for them.

He says James Webster wanted a bottle of Jagermeister and vodka.

Guard says Webster looked half-dead

A security guard working at the party where James Webster was drinking told the inquest on Thursday the boy was limp "like jelly".

Taeao Sa says he did not check people at the door for alcohol and did not see any.

He found James Webster being carried by two others during a routine check. The teenager was speechless and could not support his own weight.

Mr Sa says he told the others that the teenager was half-dead and he was going to call an ambulance, but was told not to worry because a police officer and a nurse were at the party.

He told he inquest that he wishes he had done better on the night and called an ambulance rather than listening to other people.