22 May 2017

Homeless man attacked victim to protect woman, court told

6:05 pm on 22 May 2017

A homeless man attacked another rough sleeper in Hamilton on Christmas Eve, sending him fleeing into the Waikato River where he drowned, a court has been told.

Neville Harris in the High Court in Hamilton

Neville Harris Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Neville Harris, 48, is accused of the manslaughter of 29-year-old Tama Retimana on Christmas Eve last year.

The Crown told the High Court in Hamilton Mr Harris' actions brought about Mr Retimana's death.

It said both men were living in tents and makeshift accommodation in separate places on the eastern bank of the Waikato River, and were mates and often drank together.

They came together with Mr Retimana's female partner and a friend of Mr Harris' to have a pre-Christmas celebration.

Crown Prosecutor Ross Douch said it turned ugly when Mr Retimana sexually assaulted his partner.

Mr Retimana then invited the others to join in, he said.

"At that point [Mr Harris] lost it and he took to Mr Retimana and punched and kneed him in the head."

Mr Retimana then stumbled towards the riverbank.

Mr Douch said the accused again approached Mr Retimana, but he opted to jump into the river to get away.

His body was found by a kayaker a few days later.

A post mortem found very high alcohol levels along with cannabis in his blood.

Mr Douch said the accused was indirectly responsible for the death of Mr Retimana.

"In a nutshell the violence, although perhaps understandable on one level, was not justified and that crime led Mr Retimana to go into the river where he drowned."

The Crown said Mr Harris was guilty of manslaughter because his actions caused Mr Retimana, by fear of violence, to commit an act that caused his death.

Mr Douch said Mr Retimana was not a fighter so his only option was to flee from Mr Harris.

Mr Retimana's partner, who has name suppression, gave evidence today, and said he was a good guy but someone who could get rough after a few drinks.

She described herself as wasted and tired on the day and could not recollect many details of what happened.

The trial is set down for most of the week and is before a jury of six men and six women.

It is being presided over by Justice Gordon QC.