Emery jailed for killing tagger

JAILED: Bruce Emery in court today.
JOHN SELKIRK/Dominion Post
JAILED: Bruce Emery in court today.

Aucklander Bruce Emery has been jailed for four years and three months for the manslaughter of a tagger he stabbed to death last year.

It came at an emotion-charged sentencing at the High Court at Auckland this morning.

Emery, 51, caught two teenagers tagging his property in January last year and chased them armed with a knife. It ended with 15-year-old Pihema Cameron dead from a single stab wound to the chest.

DEVASTATED: Pihema Cameron's mother Leanne outside court today.
John Selkirk
DEVASTATED: Pihema Cameron's mother Leanne outside court today.

Emery was charged with murder but, in December last year, was found not guilty of murder and instead guilty of manslaughter.

Defence lawyer Chris Comesky this morning asked for home detention, but Justice Hugh Williams said it was not an option.

The starting point for sentencing was five and a half to six years jail because it was a homicide with the use of a knife, the judge said. But Emery received the benefit of mitigating factors, including his "family standing" in the community.

VICTIM: Pihema Cameron.
VICTIM: Pihema Cameron.

Emery showed no reaction to his sentence.

Leanne Cameron, Pihema's mother, said justice had not been served today. The sentence was totally inadequate. Emery would be out in two years and should have got 10, she said.

Ms Cameron had earlier today told the court through a victim impact statement that her life had been a nightmare since the fateful night.

"I have never felt so much hatred for a person than what I feel for this man. He destroyed and broke up my family.

"Not a day goes by when I don't cry about my son. This man who killed my son had 300m to stop and think about what could have been."

Another young family member had said she wanted to rip Emery's eyes out with her fingernails.

Pihema's family and supporters were in the courtroom with a number of supporters, many wearing T-shirts with a photo of the dead teen and the words "in loving memory".

Emery, a businessman married for 20 years with three daughters, said in an interview after his December conviction: "I so deeply regret the tragedy that has happened. It is just a complete tragedy for both families and I ask for them to forgive me. I can't fix this. I've created a complete mess."

During Emery's trial, the court heard how Cameron and a 16-year-old relative went tagging in the south Auckland suburb of Manurewa after drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis.

Emery chased after them armed with a 13cm knife. The Crown said Emery was an angry man whose property had been repeatedly tagged and decided to take the law into his own hands.

Throughout the trial, Emery maintained the killing was self defence.

Pihema's mother has also said in interviews before today's sentencing that Pihema had been brought up knowing tagging was wrong, but had got into a bit of trouble, like many teenagers.

She did not support what her son had done, and had previously signed a petition against graffiti to make parents more accountable for their children's actions.

She said her son was raised in a loving, caring family but had stopped attending high school late last year because he hated it, much to the disagreement of his separated parents.

Pihema would be remembered as being family-oriented, and he enjoyed working on cars. He played in a tag touch competition for a team called the Strickly Green Tag Team.

Pihema's grandfather, Brian Cameron, has previously expressed anger at the image of his grandson that emerged in court: "They portrayed him as an alcoholic and a drug addict. He had a couple of puffs of dope each with his mate and a couple of beers, but they tried to say he drank a couple of boxes of booze and it was just out of hand."

Leanne Cameron moved to Australia last year and her children joined her later. She said Pihema had been living with his father, Pihama Edmonds, who was a tetraplegic.

Pihema was a student at Papakura High School until 2007, but had not re-enrolled, despite his parents' best efforts.

Friends of Emery's Indonesian-born wife Sotju and three daughters - Nicoletta, 15, Kimberley, 13, and Jennifer, 10 - have said the family is devastated, with the youngest daughter often not being able to sleep at night "because she misses her dad so much".

Emery had said in an interview with the Sunday News after his conviction: "When I am able to get out of here I want to do the right thing and say sorry to the poor guy's family. I have to do that to be at peace."

Emery had said he wished he had remained inside with his wife that night rather than chasing Cameron down Mahia Rd. "Under normal circumstances I would have been in bed and would not have been alerted to it."

Emery said if he could turn back the clock he would, and urged anyone in a similar position to follow a simple piece of advice.

"I would suggest people in this situation ring the police and stay on your property. For goodness sake, don't even try to apprehend them. Just wake up the next morning and clean it off."

- with NZPA