Anger at squatter led to vicious murder

HAPPIER TIMES: A shot of murdered man Maqbool Hussain on Mt Eden.
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HAPPIER TIMES: A shot of murdered man Maqbool Hussain on Mt Eden.

A man who stabbed a homeless man with a nail file before stomping on the victim's head has been jailed for life.

Justin Vance Turner, 29, won't be eligible for parole for a minimum of 15 years after being sentenced in the High Court in Auckland this morning for the murder of Pakistani man Maqbool Hussain. 

The court heard Hussain, 49, was sleeping in a Balmoral, Auckland squat in March last year when he was viciouslyattacked by Turner who punched and stabbed him with a nailfile, which snapped. 

Turner then dragged Hussain onto the floor and stomped on his neck and head for 30 minutes until Hussain's head, by Turner's own admission, was "bouncing off the pavement".  

According to the summary of facts Turner then left the scene before returning to steal his victim's pants. 

After being arrested in Taupo a week later Turner confessed to police he'd killed Hussain because he'd become enraged that the homeless man had been sleeping and urinating in public.

He later pleaded guilty to murder.

HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

Today crown prosecutor Brett Tantrum asked Justice Mark Woolford to send Turner to prison for life without parole.

He said Turner had been assessed by a psychiatrist as having a severe personality disorder complicated by substance abuse problems, and was at an "extremely high risk" of violent reoffending.  

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Turner had a significant history of violence, with 101 convictions, and was on bail at the time of his offending after beating a woman so badly she was put on life support. 

For that offence, Turner was convicted of wounding with intent and sentenced to more than three years jail which earned him a 'first strike' under the three strikes legislation.

'NOT THE WORST'

Today, Turner's lawyer Louise Freyer argued that life without the possibility of parole was a "manifestly unjust" sentence because the murder was "not the worst" of its kind.  

The court heard of Turner's "unenviable childhood" where he was sexually and physically abused, passed around between family homes, and suffered the trauma of watching his brother die in a fire. 

Justice Woolford said that although Turner hadn't been diagnosed with any mental illness apart from the personality disorder, he had been taking anti-psychotic medication and found it difficult to function in society, including holding down accommodation.

When he murdered Hussain he'd been sleeping on the streets for 15 years, was estranged from his family and was prone to unexplained bouts of violence which he always expressed remorse for. 

Turner had written a letter of apology to the court and Hussain's family, saying "I can't undo what has been done but I can spend time in jail learning and reading so I can change my life for the better". 

"There are no words to explain how sorry I am," he wrote.

FATHER SPEAKS

Turner was visibly distressed as Freyer spoke of his brother's death, and he wept openly when his father, Stephen Turner, took the unusual step of standing up in court to tearfully blame himself for his son's crime. 

"Through my part, my violence, my DNA, my mental illness, I am somewhat to contribute for my son being here today," he said.  

The father said that the day before the murder he'd gone searching for his son, whom he was once very close with, saying he told people: "I have a funny feeling something is going to happen."

Justice Woolford said Turner should be given the opportunity to rehabilitate in prison but the "callousness" with which he sought out his vulnerable victim for the sustained attack deserved recognition.

Turner was also given a second warning under the three strikes law. 

In a victim impact statement written by Hussain's sister, she said the Hussain family had suffered "a great loss" of an uncle who often brought sweets and gifts for his nieces and nephews. 

"It's a terrible tragedy and it hurts very much when we think about it," she said.

"Everyone is still sad and crying for him."

'MANIFESTLY UNJUST' CLAUSE UNDER SCRUTINY

The Act Party led the introduction of the three strikes law in 2010.

Act leader David Seymour stopped short of criticising Justice Woolford's ruling but said it was the second time the 'manifestly unjust' clause had been used by judge's when sentencing second strike offenders.

In October last year Shane Harrison also escaped life without parole, and was instead sentenced to a minimum imprisonment of 13 years, after being convicted of murdering gang associate Alonsio (Sio) Matalasi. 

"The judge is the only person who has all of the facts and we do have to respect that but I could understand if some members of the public were saying what do you have to do (to be the worst)?" Seymour said. 

"We'll be watching carefully how the policy is playing out in practice." 

Victoria University criminology professor John Pratt said the legislation was introduced for the 'worst of the worst' who had no chance of rehabilitation. 

At 29-years-old Turner had an opportunity, however small, to get some help and rehabilitate, Pratt said. 

"What the judge is saying, and quite rightly, is that I'm not going to lock you away for the rest of your life. If you do that to a 29-year-old you're going to keep him in prison for 45 to 50 years which in this case would make him the longest serving prisoner."

 - Stuff

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