Pair charged with killing Kiwi tourist

KILLED KIWI: Nick Heyward.
KILLED KIWI: Nick Heyward.

Killing a Kiwi backpacker was always going to catch up with two Argentinian motorbike bandits, the slain man's father says.

Two men were charged yesterday with shooting rock-climber Nick Heyward, 31, to death during a botched bag-snatch in the Andean city of Mendoza in April.

Police said Marco Leiva Soda, 34, and his nephew Adrian Soda, 20, had always been suspects, after one of them was reportedly overheard boasting about the killing, but officers had been prudent about charging them. "Now we have more proof."

Mendoza daily Los Andes reported the men were arrested after associates informed on them.

Heyward's father, Ben, who lives in Adelaide, said: "I figured these guys had signed their own death warrant by doing it, and even more by talking about it.

"I knew that sooner or later they would make a mistake. It was one of those crimes that, in the end, would come back on them."

The arrests were important for closure, but more significant had been the sharing of memories, stories and photos during Nick's funeral near Adelaide last month.

His body was flown home to be buried beside his New Zealand- born mother Margaret Nees, who trained as a nurse at Hutt Hospital and died in a car accident in Australia when he was 12.

"People will carry treasures of Nick forward into their lives . . . He touched a lot of people in ways we'll never forget. Special man, special mother."

The funeral had been an "opening into the future" for the family, who shared photos of him climbing in the Andes not long before his death. "A bit like Nick in the mountains - looking forward, and over."

Heyward spent much of his life in Australia but travelled on a New Zealand passport. His grandparents, Hugh and Joan Nees, of Paraparaumu, said they were glad someone was being "held to account" for the killing.

Marco Leiva Soda was arrested on Tuesday, and a motorbike similar to the one used in the shooting was seized.

His nephew was arrested after reporting to the police station about a separate matter. Both are said to have extensive criminal records, including aggravated robbery and attempted murder.

Prosecutor Santiago Garay said the killer's identity could be confirmed by Heyward's French travelling companion, Pierre D'Amico, who witnessed the attack, along with Australian Fiona Darling.

One of the arrested men was detained last month but released when D'Amico could not pick him out of a lineup because he wore a helmet at the time of the attack, Garay said.

However, his pillion passenger was thought to have been helmetless as he dismounted and shot Heyward, increasing hopes D'Amico could identify him.

The Dominion Post