14 May 2013

Man dragged from court after murder verdict

9:51 pm on 14 May 2013

A man found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend had to be dragged away by court security after trying to jump from the dock towards her mother and another man.

A jury had just delivered eight guilty verdicts against Nikki Roper, including the murder of Alexsis Tovizi in December 2010.

Roper had been accused of killing the 21-year-old at her Christchurch home in Stanmore Road, taking her car and laptop and using her eftpos card.

The Crown said the 24-year-old strangled the mother in the days after being released from jail for trying to choke her two months earlier. It said his actions were fuelled by jealousy towards Ms Tovizi's new boyfriend.

Nikki Roper had denied all eight charges, and shortly after his arrest told police in an interview that he had helped Ms Tovizi commit suicide by holding her head in a large pot of water.

The jury of eight women and five men at the Christchurch High Court retired at 12.30pm on Tuesday and returned to the court about 5pm.

Ms Tovizi's mother, Cheryl Tovizi, welcomed the guilty verdicts, which appeared to enrage Roper causing him to yell and swear at her before trying to jump out of the dock in her direction.

Roper also lunged at another man who was taunting him in the court.

He was subdued by court security and dragged out yelling: "That's what you get for narking on the Mongrel Mob" and could be heard yelling from the cells at the courthouse.

Justice Miller remanded Roper in custody for sentencing on 3 July.

In her closing address on Tuesday, Crown prosecutor Pip Curry said the drowning scenario was ridiculous and she thought the defence didn't even believe that was likely to have happened. She said even if Roper had helped Alexsis Tovizi commit suicide, that was still murder.

Mrs Curry said Roper killed Ms Tovizi by choking her in a hold he had learnt in prison, and that he had told inmates he was going to kill her when he got out.

Defence lawyer Simon Sharmy said forensic evidence had been presented at the trial that there was no clear proof of how Ms Tovizi died. "Did chronic alcohol abuse kill Alexsis? Who knows. Did asphyxia kill Alexsis? Who knows," he told jurors.

Mother wants stronger protection orders

Outside court on Tuesday, Cheryl Tovizi called for tougher protection orders, saying they should include non-physical contact.

She said although her daughter had a protection order against Nikki Roper, that did not stop him contacting her via phone, text or social media.

"The Ministry of Justice still fails to recognise the impact of psychological abuse, particularly when non-contact conditions are in place. Police fail to act on what are often perceived as minor breaches."

Cheryl Tovizi said Alexsis joins 200 other women and children who have died violently at the hands of men they had protection orders against and the justice system needs to change.

She said she would look after her daughter's young son.

Relief for family

Greg Sparrow, the area commander for the Dunedin police and Alexsis Tovizi's godfather, gave a statement on behalf of her father, Anthony Boughham, outside court.

"Anthony's family feels a real sense of relief at the guilty verdict that the jury's delivered. We now hope that the appropriate sentence will be imposed, reflecting the devastating impact that this murder has had on Alexsis's immediate family, her son and those who were close to her.

"In past two-and-a-half years it's been an extremely trying time ... We now turn towards the future, but always remembering Alexsis as a bright, caring, funny and loving young woman and mother."

Mr Sparrow said the family wanted to thank police for their efforts and all those who came forward with evidence during the investigation.