22 Aug 2013

Man not guilty of murder in hidden skeleton case

3:36 pm on 22 August 2013

An Auckland man who covered-up killing his friend by hiding his body in an abandoned house and assuming his identity, has been found not guilty of his murder.

Instead, James Grant Cooper, 25, has been found guilty of manslaughter after killing Javed Mills, 23, during a fight in 2009.

Cooper buried Mr Mills in his backyard before exhuming the body and smashing his skull to hide evidence.

He then hid the skeleton in an abandoned house in Mount Wellington, where it was discovered by demolition workers only in 2011.

Cooper also set up a fake social media account under Mr Mills' name, and collected his benefit money, to convince friends and family he was still alive.

During the trial, his lawyer argued Cooper killed Mr Mills in self-defence and destroyed the skull because he did not want the death to be misconstrued.

Cooper will be sentenced on the manslaughter charge and a charge of perverting the course of justice, on 18 October.