12 years jail for journalist's killer

JAILED: Nicho Allan Waipuka, 20, has been jailed for 12 years and 10 months for the manslaughter of journalist Phillip Cottrell.
JAILED: Nicho Allan Waipuka, 20, has been jailed for 12 years and 10 months for the manslaughter of journalist Phillip Cottrell.

The killer of Wellington journalist Phillip Cottrell narrowly escaped a jail sentence 17 days before the fatal attack.

Nicho Allan Waipuka instead received a sentence of intensive supervision when he appeared in the District Court on charges that included a single-punch assault and threatening to kill.

A probation officer who had reported on Waipuka for the District Court had recommended jail.

Mr Cottrell’s sister and brother-in-law learned of the earlier sentencing just before they attended the hearing this morning at which Waipuka received a term of 12 years and 10 months' jail for the manslaughter of Mr Cottrell.

They said news that Waipuka had escaped prison so soon before he killed Mr Cottrell, had been like “an earthquake”.

Sue Hollows said no sentence would ever be enough to punish her brother's killer but the sentence handed down today was more than she had expected.

She was grateful to Justice Forrie Miller for the term he imposed on Nicho Allan Waipuka, 20.

Her husband Heath Hollows said he felt some of the weight had been shifted from them and the outcome was not as devastating as it could have been.

Finally someone related to exactly how they felt, Mr Hollows said.

He said the judge had "nailed it".

Detective Senior Sergeant Scott Miller said the seriousness the court had shown in the sentencing was a very good indication that the police and the justice system will not tolerate unprovoked violence.

The judge looked at the evidence in detail and interpreted it in a different way to the jury, Mr Miller said. The judge's conclusions on the evidence justified the longer sentence, which was very high for manslaughter.

"It appears the line between murder and manslaughter was very close."

Waipuka had admitted punching Mr Cottrell once but in the High Court at Wellington today Justice Forrie Miller accepted medical opinions that Mr Cottrell was stomped and kicked as well.

The judge said he considered sentencing Waipuka to life imprisonment.

Waipuka showed no remorse at the time Mr Cottrell died or now, the judge said.

He thought Waipuka enjoyed violence and used it casually or to get what he wanted.

Mr Cottrell, a bulletin editor for Radio New Zealand, died from head injuries on December 11, 2011, the day after he was attacked while walking home from a work night shift.

He left work at about 5.30am in daylight for a walk of a few minutes to his flat in Victoria St, central Wellington, but Waipuka hit him, and took his wallet which contained $80.

Mr Cottrell, 43, had a bone condition, osteogenesis imperfecta, which might have affected the way his bones broke. His skull was shattered, and he had a broken arm and fractures in several neck bones.

Waipuka and a youth who was with him, Manuel Renera Robinson, who was then 17, were charged with murder.

Robinson denied being involved in the attack and a jury last December acquitted him outright. Waipuka was acquitted of murder but found guilty of manslaughter.

Mr Cottrell was widely travelled and had the goal of visiting at least 100 countries by the time he reached 50. At his death he had visited 73. Friends and family have continued his quest, visiting the countries he had intended to see, taking photographs and posting them on a Facebook page.

The Dominion Post