Bouncer's evidence crucial in Heagney case - lawyer

ROBIN RAYMOND
Last updated 07:16 15/10/2012

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Evidence from former Shapeshifters bar bouncer Dewy Zuidema was crucial in getting all parties to agree to an amended charge against Kevin King, King's lawyer says.

King, a former Shapeshifters co-owner, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Blenheim man Matt Heagney, 24, after his charge was amended during a re-trial in the High Court at Wellington on Wednesday. King's lawyer Greg King said the new charge was a "significantly less serious" charge.

Mr Heagney died after his head hit the pavement when he was dropped by King who was helping remove him from Shapeshifters in Blenheim in August 2009. King was charged with assaulting Mr Heagney leading to his death, but that charge was changed during the third day of the trial to say that King had acted legally in removing Mr Heagney from the bar but did not use reasonable care when releasing Mr Heagney, leading to his death.

Greg King said he thought Ms Zuidema's evidence was crucial for the case showing that King did not assault Mr Heagney.

Crown prosecutor Mark O'Donoghue said King had put Mr Heagney in a headlock, which left him semi-conscious and unable to protect himself when he fell.

However, during her evidence Crown witness Ms Zuidema said she was not sure if King was holding Mr Heagney in a headlock or around the chest before he dropped him outside the bar.

"It dispelled the idea that anything Mr King did was unjustified and then the issue was about him releasing Mr Heagney," Greg King said.

That allowed the defence to approach the Crown offering to plead guilty to the new charge, which reflected the version of events Kevin King had maintained from the first time he spoke to police.

Because it was a less serious charge, he expected King would receive a lighter sentence, but that was not certain.

"That would be my expectation, but obviously sentencing is a matter for the judge. Even though there has been a previous conviction and a previous sentence, the sentencing judge is in no way bound by that." King had always accepted responsibility for Mr Heagney's death, he said.

"I think anyone who has spent time with him would see he is completely overwhelmed by that.

"He is distraught with the devastating loss of this life and the consequences it has had on Mr Heagney's family. I hope that the way the case has panned out shows he does accept responsibility. It's a case of accepting correct responsibility."

King will be sentenced on November 19.

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- The Marlborough Express

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