Man who fatally stabbed neighbour found not guilty

5:47 pm on 11 November 2016

A man who fatally stabbed his neighbour in the street has walked free from court this afternoon with his family.

Dustin La Mont, left, and Nathan Pukeroa.

Dustin La Mont, left, and Nathan Pukeroa. Photo: RNZ

Dustin La Mont was today found not guilty of murdering 24 year-old Nathan Pukeroa and injuring Mr Pukeroa's friend, Devaray Cole-Kuvarji.

As the verdicts were delivered in court, Mr Cole-Kuvarji stood and slammed the glass barrier surrounding the dock before leaving court. Others swore and crying could be heard outside the court room.

Mr La Mont had been confronted by the two men at the end of the road in December last year. They pushed and shoved him before one of them took a swing.

Mr La Mont drew a knife and stabbed both men in the neck.

In his closing address to the jury, his lawyer David Hoskin argued Mr La Mont had no choice, that he acted in self-defence. He said Mr La Mont was going to "get the smash".

He said it was midnight and Mr La Mont, a slightly-built 25-year-old, was confronted by two men twice his size.

Mr La Mont told a police detective that they cornered him at the end of his dead-end street and began shoving him, demanding to know what was in his pockets and if he worked for the police.

Both had a history of fighting, and both had gang connections.

Nathan Pukeroa

Nathan Pukeroa Photo: NZ Police

Mr La Mont told police that he warned them he had a knife before drawing the blade from his pocket and stabbing both in the neck.

His recollection of what happened during the confrontation was hazy, but he recalled one of the men grabbing by his arm. Moments later, he was able to get away.

The court was told that others at the property had bought an ounce of methamphetamine for $8000 and had tried to buy $78,000 worth of the precursor drug pseudoephedrine. The second deal fell through, but the meth and the money were on the property on the night of the confrontation.

Mr Hoskin said this was what motivated Mr Pukeroa and Mr Cole-Kuvarji. They were not involved in the deal themselves, but other people at the property were.

But the Crown said Mr La Mont acted in anger and frustration.

Crown prosecutor Steve Haszard said Mr La Mont had become obsessed with his neighbours. He spied on them, and reported them to the police and the council. He had also armed himself with a knife on the night of the killing.

But Mr Hoskin said Mr La Mont was only seconds away from being overwhelmed. There was an immediate danger that required immediate action.

He said his client was in a pure panic and had tried to walk around the two men, but they blocked his exit. Mr Hoskin said even if Mr La Mont had run, he would have been chased down.

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