8 Nov 2016

Murder-accused changed story in police interview, court told

7:12 am on 8 November 2016

A man accused of murder told police he had nothing to do with the fatal stabbing of his neighbour but a day later told a detective he had killed the man in self-defence, after being cornered at the end of their dead-end street, a court has been told

Dustin La Mont at the High Court, 25 October 2016.

Dustin La Mont Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Dustin La Mont denies murdering Nathan Pukeroa and seriously injuring Mr Pukeroa's friend, Devaray Cole-Kuvarji in December last year.

Police interviews with the 26-year-old have been played at the High Court in Auckland.

Mr La Mont said there were loud parties next door, people wearing gang patches and on one occasion spotting a stolen motorbike, but he denied any involvement in the stabbing.

He told Detective Kennedy that he suffered from anxiety and depression and that he had an episode on the night of Mr Pukeroa's death.

Nathan Pukeroa

Nathan Pukeroa. Photo: NZ Police

He said that night he had eaten dinner at home with his girlfriend, her sister and his flatmate.

They watched episodes from the zombie drama series The Walking Dead as a loud party raged next door.

Mr La Mont said later that night, as he and his girlfriend were preparing to go to bed, they discussed going out to dinner or a concert to celebrate their upcoming anniversary.

It was at that point that his anxiety and depression kicked in. He took a long shower before heading out to the garage in the back yard.

"As far as the neighbours went, I wasn't paying much attention to them anymore because it was just a party ... It was almost like them having fun and I'm not, I don't know," Mr La Mont said.

"Like, why are these people who have probably done nothing good for anyone else, they're in gangs or they're doing whatever the dumb shit they do.

"How can they be so happy? I just didn't want to think about it, I guess."

He said inside the garage he self-harmed by cutting himself with a knife.

It is at about this time the Crown said Mr Pukeroa was stabbed in the street but Mr La Mont continued to deny any involvement.

He said he did go out into the street but that was only to investigate an alarm. It turned out to be an elderly neighbour's smoke alarm and he checked on her to make sure she was okay.

Mr La Mont said he then went back inside the house and cleaned his feet.

Mr Kennedy also asked him about a knife that Mr La Mont had earlier shown police.

Mr La Mont responded: "[It's] certainly not something I'd carry for self-defence. That's not a valid reason ... I wouldn't use it for self defence anyway, it's a clumsy knife. It's got a basic utility blade but it's not a fighting knife or anything like that."

However, Mr Kennedy revealed to Mr La Mont that he knew he had shaved his beard off on the night of the killing.

"Somebody has injured two people, one of which has died and the person I suspect who may have been involved in that has not only gone and self-harmed in that shed but also, according to you, later on, gone and shaved their beard off"

Mr La Mont continued to deny any involvement, but the following day he admitted he had stabbed both men.

He said the party next door was getting more rowdy and he decided to walk past the neighbour's house and take a look but he was spotted by two men who followed him and cornered him at the end of the cul-de-sac.

The men shoved him and asked him what was in his pockets and if he worked for the police.

"I tried to take a step back and I warned them I had a knife in my pocket and I would use it if I have to. They continued to advance towards me. One of them swung a punch at me and either I ducked it or stepped out of the way, I don't know. It never collected."

He said he recalled pulling the knife out of his pocket and opening the blade.

"I barely remember anything, it's like I was blind. I don't have any visual recollection of what actually happened. It's just the sound of shoes on the asphalt and then a hand grabbing my forearm and then the light shining in my eyes as I ran away."

Mr La Mont said he was on auto-pilot, and at one point he and Mr Kennedy stood up to re-enact the scene.

Mr Kennedy said Mr La Mont took detectives to Mount Albert where he had thrown the blade of the knife. He then took them to a skip bin outside the cafe where he worked in Mt Albert.

Inside separate rubbish bags, police found the other parts of the knife.

The trial continues.

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