Lawyer Greg King found dead

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 10:32 04/11/2012
Greg King
Fairfax NZ

LEGAL EAGLE: Greg King giving his closing address during the Ewen Macdonald case.

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Tributes from those in the legal profession are beginning to flow for Wellington barrister Greg King, who was found dead yesterday in a quiet Wellington suburban street. 

King, 43, was a theatrical criminal lawyer, most recently seen successfully defending Ewen Macdonald against the charge of murdering Scott Guy.

He was discovered lying face down on a grass verge at the bottom of Dungarvan Rd in the northern Wellington suburb of Newlands at about 10.30am yesterday.

Pathologist John Rutherford was at the scene. He is the same pathologist who examined Guy's body.

It is believed King took his own life. Detective Inspector Paul Basham said police did not believe King's death was suspicious and the matter had been referred to the coroner.

He appealed for sightings of King's silver Mercedes-Benz in the Newlands area from midday Friday.

"Our deepest sympathies are with Greg's family and friends at this incredibly tragic and difficult time," Basham said.

"Greg was well known and respected among police staff, and I know his death will be keenly felt by many people, including those in the wider legal community."

King family spokeswoman Frances Jones asked that the family's privacy be respected. "This is a terrible tragedy for Greg's family and children, who are devastated by his loss."

New Zealand Law Society president Jonathon Temm said the legal profession was ''tremendously saddened'' by the news.

Mr Temm said Greg King had a national reputation and was a very well known member of the profession.

"Throughout his career he represented clients who were often unpopular and he did that with real ability and determination.''

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson said King was a very nice guy and a fine advocate. "Although young in years, Greg King had already achieved a huge amount in his career. He was a lawyer in the finest traditions of the criminal bar, of the same stature as the likes of Mike Bungay, Kevin Ryan and Roy Stacey.''

Mr Finlayson said King's early death was very sad and expressed his deepest sympathies to King's family.

Labour leader David Shearer also expressed his sadness at news of Mr King's death.

"Greg had one of this country's finest legal brains. There wouldn't be many New Zealanders who hadn't heard of him.

"He has also made a huge contribution to raising the profile of the legal profession.

"Greg King's death at such a young age is a tragedy. It will leave a huge gap.''

Wainuiomata Rugby League Club chairman Simon Itula said Mr King had made a big contribution to the club as a sponsor and committee member in recent years.

"This is a tragic situation. He made a big contribution to our club," Mr Itula said.

King, who was diagnosed with diabetes late last year, was not present during the judge's summing up in the Jonathan Ioata manslaughter trial in Wellington on Wednesday. It is understood he was at a medical appointment. He returned later.

King ran a practice with his wife, Catherine, out of Lower Hutt, and became a household name in July when he successfully defended Macdonald.

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Legal experts hailed his work, which famously included wild-eyed closing arguments.

King was also involved in the defences of Scott Watson, John Barlow and Clayton Weatherston.

A source yesterday said he saw King's car at the end of the quiet residential street before dark on Friday night. He had never seen the car before and thought it was unusual.

"There's no houses right there - it's just a road end where you just turn around. There's no reason for a car to be parked there."

He believed the body was found only metres from the car by a person driving a red van. Police arrived a short time later and he watched as specialist staff in boiler suits helped with the investigation. King's car was removed on a tow truck before his body was driven from the scene in a hearse about 3pm.

Lawyers and convicted criminals alike were full of praise for King. National Criminal Bar Association president Tony Bouchier said: "He was a rising star of our profession . . . he was tenacious, fearless and had all the attributes that any criminal barrister would want. We have really lost an ally."

King worked closely with mentor Judith Ablett Kerr on the 2008 Weatherston trial. She regarded him "like a son" and said last night: "I'm absolutely devastated."

Convicted double murderer John Barlow remembered King as "an exceptional person as well as a brilliant barrister". 
Ad Feedback Barlow maintains his innocence of the 1994 slayings of Eugene and Gene Thomas in central Wellington.

In 2008, King took an ultimately unsuccessful appeal to the Privy Council, taking on the case pro bono.

Barlow said: "You couldn't ask for anybody better. He was generous of his time. He was certainly an unusual person . . . he was out on his own."

Bryan Guy, father of murder victim Scott, described the death as "terrible, tragic and sad" for King's children and family. He praised King's professionalism. "He had a job to do. It wouldn't have mattered who the defence lawyer was.

"There's certainly no issues or animosity."

Gil Elliott, father of Sophie Elliott who was killed by Weatherston, has been critical of the provocation defence that King employed but last night said he felt nothing but sadness for King's family.

"I think he would have gone places with regard to the judicial system in the future. We can't afford to lose people like that."

King found an unlikely friend in sometime rival Garth McVicar from the Sensible Sentencing Trust. McVicar, who met King for lunch in Wellington two days before his death, said he was struggling with the news.

The pair had known each other for eight years and McVicar said he noticed nothing unusual with King when they met for lunch.

"Greg was one of those neat guys who could walk on both sides of life," he said. King had the ability to "win the hearts" of the families of murder victims.

"We were opposite sides of the fence on a lot of issues. That's how we met. We had a number of sparring matches but we ended up the best of friends.

"I admire Greg hugely. My thoughts are with the family." King, born in Whanganui and raised in Turangi, leaves behind his wife Catherine Milnes-King and two children, Pippa and Millie.

Additional reporting: Marika Hill, Sam Boyer, Neil Reid, Simon Day and Tony Wall.

Related Story:

Greg King: Friend of the Friendless

- Sunday Star Times

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