Legal fraternity mourn high-profile lawyer

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Last updated 05:00 05/11/2012
Used to slugging it out in the courtroom, top lawyer Greg King turned his hand to the boxing ring as MC for the Charity Fight Night in Upper Hutt last month.
Fairfax NZ
PUBLIC EYE: Used to slugging it out in the courtroom, top lawyer Greg King turned his hand to the boxing ring as MC for the Charity Fight Night in Upper Hutt last month.
Greg King
CRAIG SIMCOX/ Fairfax NZ
SUCCESSFUL DEFENCE: Greg King sums up in the trial of his client Ewen Macdonald who was acquitted in the High Court at Wellington.

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He was known for defending notorious criminals but Greg King will also be remembered as a passionate boxing fan who helped rescue a rugby league club from the brink of financial disaster.

Mr King, 43, a top Wellington lawyer, most recently successfully defended Ewen Macdonald against a charge of murdering Scott Guy.

Mr King's body was discovered at the bottom of Dungarvan Rd, Newlands, about 10.30am on Saturday.

His death is a suspected suicide and has been referred to the coroner.

Lawyers, convicted criminals, and victims' families all paid tribute to Mr King over the weekend - and yesterday he was remembered as a man committed to giving something back to the local sporting community.

Wainuiomata Rugby League Club spokesman Simon Itula said Mr King played a significant role in rescuing the club from serious financial trouble when he became involved as a sponsor in 2008.

He later became a committee and executive member of the club.

Mr King's legal knowledge and business skills were invaluable, Mr Itula said.

"He was just hugely inspirational and always positive. Even though we knew we were struggling and we felt there was no way out, he would always come in and allow us to remain positive."

Mr King's death left "a huge hole" the club would struggle to fill, Mr Itula said.

"Not having his wisdom, his humour and his guidance - it will have a pretty big impact on us for sure. How could you fill shoes like that?"

Wellington District Court's main court stood for a moment's silence this morning for high profile lawyer Greg King whose body was found on Saturday.

Judge Tom Broadmore presiding over a police list said it was the first sitting since Mr King has passed away and it was a grevious blow to the legal profession and to the community in which he operated.

"It was a tragedy felt keenly by the judges as well,'' he said.

Ben Vanderkolk, the lead Crown prosecutor in the Ewen Macdonald trial this year, said he had a feeling of ''tragic numbness''.

''He was a lawyer in his prime and his life has been cut short.''

Mr Vanderkolk said he had faced Mr King in three murder trials over a decade and was impressed with his opposition's planning.

''He always knew his case inside out before it went to trial.

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''He was a brilliant strategist with an agile mind.

''He would have a plan and stick to it, because he was confident it was the right one.''

Mr King was also easy to deal with outside the courtroom before a trial, which Mr Vanderkolk said made the process much easier.

''You could settle things a long way out from a trial with him and know what to expect.

''All his trials were incredible focused.''

A fortnight ago Mr King was MC at the Mexted Suzuki Charity Fight Night in Upper Hutt in front of a 1200-strong crowd.

Wellington Boxing Association chairman Ian Scott said he first discovered Mr King had an interest in boxing in 2002.

"What a lot of people don't realise is that he was very, very keen on boxing. He was very, very knowledgeable.

"He's a showman, Greg, and his natural flair just took over and you could see he was enjoying something that was removed from his normal."

Former Wellington District Law Society president Gary Turkington said he returned from overseas last week and contacted Mr King on Thursday about a criminal appeal the pair were working on together. "Let's return to the saga," Mr King had said to him.

"He was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and there was nothing to suggest for one moment that there was anything amiss.

"He was very affable and enormously liked and had the gift of the gab, which is pretty essential if you're in criminal work.

"He'll be sorely missed."

Mr Turkington said the pair had discussed Mr King's battle with diabetes.

"It didn't seem to unduly bother him. It didn't for one moment cloud his thinking as far as I could determine."

It is understood Mr King missed the judge's summing-up in a manslaughter trial in Wellington last Wednesday to attend a medical appointment.

Former MP and fellow Wellington lawyer Stephen Franks said he would remember Mr King as a man deeply concerned about issues of law reform.

"For me Greg was like coming across an oasis in the desert.

"It was so refreshing to find someone who wanted to put time into improving it [the legal system] and open-minded about the criticisms."

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson said Mr King had achieved "a huge amount" despite his relative youth.

The father of two young children - Pippa, 5, and Millie, 4 - Mr King ran a law practice with his wife, Catherine Milnes-King, out of Lower Hutt.

As well as Ewen Macdonald, he acted for Clayton Weatherston, John Barlow, Scott Watson and Bruce Howse.

Police are appealing for sightings of Mr King's silver Mercedes-Benz in the Newlands area from midday Friday.

Mr King will be remembered at a service on Friday morning in the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul in Thorndon.

A death notice printed today said Mr King was the "dearly loved husband and soul mate" of Catherine and "cherished father" of Pippa and Millie.

The family has requested that rather than flowers, donations be made to the Wellington Free Ambulance.
The service will begin at 11am.

- The Dominion Post

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