Trial into Hastings murder wraps up

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 17:01 23/06/2014
wright standard
HOMICIDE VICTIM: Johnny Wright.
Steven Rakuraku
JOHN COWPLAND/Fairfax NZ
OWN DEFENCE: Prosecutors allege Steven Rakuraku took control of Johnny Wright's life, beat him regularly and would not let him out of his house. They say the beatings ended with Wright's murder.

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Three years after Johnny Wright died the High Court trial into his death has wrapped up.

A jury will begin deliberating on the fate of murder-accused Steven Rakuraku tomorrow morning.

Wright died on June 23, 2011 when the 36 rib fractures he suffered stopped him breathing.

Police found Wright's body in August 2011 after a tipoff led to a search of a rural Napier area. The 50-year-old beneficiary had not been seen since early June that year.

Steven Rakuraku is alleged to have detained Wright and beaten him with a taiaha, a traditional Maori weapon.
Rakuraku 39, admits burying him, out of "panic", but denies having anything to do with his death.

He has been defending himself during a three-week trial in the High Court at Napier. He faces 12 charges relating to four victims between 2010 and 2011.

Rakuraku and his girlfriend found Wright slumped on the couch, dead, when they returned from the library.

Rakaraku wrapped the body, borrowed a vehicle, then drove to Waipunga Rd and buried his body in a shallow grave.

The crown says Rakuraku was a bully who survived by instilling fear in his victims, Justice Joe Williams said summing up today.

The crown described Rakuraku as a tormentor of vulnerable people, alleging that he beat Wright so badly that he began wetting himself and could not stand unassisted.

Rakuraku claimed he befriended Wright, helped him out financially by paying rent and then provided new accommodation when he was evicted, Williams said.

The crown said Rakuraku took control of Wright's finances and moved him to another "safe house" where he could hide from police looking for him.

The Crown said Rakuraku beat him repeatedly and must have known that death was likely because of his already injured state, Williams said.

Rakuraku denied ever beating Wright. He claimed he would never use taonga, to inflict harm. He suggested Wright could have been injured during their boxing training but it was never intentional and at the most it just a bleeding nose.

After summing up, Justice Williams urged the jury to ask themselves: "are you sure" before determining guilt or innocence. 

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- The Dominion Post

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