26 Jun 2015

Gang-related killing 'particularly tragic'

9:12 pm on 26 June 2015

A Huntly teenager is starting a four-and-a-half year sentence for fatally stabbing a man in the North Waikato town during a gang confrontation last year.


Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Peter Hepi, 19, was found not guilty of murdering Kevin Rimaha, 32, but guilty of his manslaughter after a trial last month.

He was sentenced today in the High Court in Hamilton.

Mr Rimaha, who himself had served a prison sentence for manslaughter in 2004, was punched by Hepi and on standing up received a stab wound to the heart, dying instantly.

The court heard that even if he had been stabbed in a hospital, with all the medical care available, he still would have died.

Hepi and Mr Rimaha were members of rival groups that came together in James Henry Crescent in Huntly on 1 October last year.

Armed with shovels, pipes, bottles and other weapons they got involved in a brawl which resulted in Mr Rimaha's death.

At the sentencing in a victim impact statement, Mr Rimaha's mother, Te Ara Taratoa, said her son was too young to die.

"Kev was no saint but he is my son, was my son, and I loved him without reservation," she said.

"You, Peter Hepi, had no right to kill him, no right to take him away from me."

Mr Rimaha's adopted father, Te Arangi Hetekia told the court in his victim impact statement, read by Crown Solicitor Ross Douch, that, because of fear of retribution, marae protocol had to be broken as they took his son's body onto his marae at 3am.

"Although the circumstances were acknowledged it was extremely upsetting for me that I was put in this position and caused offence to my hapu by breaking normal protocols."

Mr Rimaha's daughter, Krystal Paerino, also through the Crown lawyer, spoke of the impact her father's death has had.

"All I have now is a picture in a frame and memories in my heart from a man I used to call Dad."

Hepi's defence during his trial was that he was acting in self defence and was not the aggressor. However, Justice Andrews ruled that Mr Rimaha was on his own at the time of his death and was not armed.

Hepi's lawyer Kerry Tustin still maintained it was a case of a young man found in an impossible situation.

"It wasn't a situation that it could be said that he brought on himself in any way that happened in his street that night but he clearly had his own role."

Justice Andrews disputed this.

"By their verdict, the jury concluded that you did stab Mr Rimaha and rejected self defence."

Justice Andrews described the events of last October as dreadful and appalling in all respects.

"It is particularly tragic that the fight did not really concern either you or Mr Rimaha, yet you both by choice became involved in it with truly tragic consequences."

Justice Andrews told Hepi that he must be held accountable and the community must understand that violent acts end in tragedy.

In sentencing him to jail, the judge took into account Hepi's age but refused a Crown request for a minimum parole period.