Accused 'prised victim's fingers from balcony'

VICTORIA ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 15/05/2012

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A man who fell to his death after his fingers were prised from a balcony railing landed in front of a neighbour who saw the whole incident, a court heard yesterday.

Michael Manga, 39, pleaded not guilty in the High Court at Auckland yesterday to the manslaughter of his friend Stuart Kingi.

He is alleged to have helped Barry Harwood, 66, uncurl Kingi's fingers from a balcony rail where he was hanging after being assaulted by Harwood, on March 10 2010.

Crown lawyer Nick Whittington told the jury that Harwood has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter.

Whittington said the main question for the jury was whether Manga helped Harwood move Kingi's fingers off the rail.

The lawyer said the assault took place after the three men and a female friend had spent a day drinking together at the apartment Harwood and Manga shared in Glen Innes.

At about lunchtime that day Manga and the woman left to go to a pub in Panmure, while Kingi and Harwood slept.

Whittington told the jury when they returned Kingi was lying just inside the front door, and had urinated on himself and the floor.

They found Harwood yelling and shouting at Kingi, and trying to get him outside.

At Harwood's request, Manga allegedly picked up Kingi and put him on a plastic chair outside.

Whittington said things escalated from there - Harwood kept arguing with Kingi, and refused to let him back inside the apartment.

A jacket thrown over the balcony's railing got the attention of Harwood's downstairs neighbour, Clive Head.

Head came out onto the lawn below and asked the men what was going on.

Harwood told him to mind his own business.

Whittington said Head could see Harwood trying to lift Kingi over the balcony railing, but he appeared to be unable to do so.

Head warned Harwood not to lift his friend over.

Whittington said Harwood was 64 and an alcoholic who had been drinking heavily that day.

He said it is clear he wasn't in the physical condition to lift Kingi over the balcony railing himself.

Whittington said Manga helped lift Kingi, who grabbed the balcony with his hands and slung his left leg up over the railing.

Both Manga and Harwood unhooked Kingi's fingers, sending him plummeting headfirst onto concrete below.

Kingi landed right in front of Head, who quickly called 111.

The lawyer told the jury Manga was interviewed by police soon after the incident.

He said the interview would be played to the jury during the trial, and they would see that he described the incident exactly the same way Head did - except he claimed to have watched it happen through a window in the apartment.

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In a brief opening address, Manga's lawyer Jonathan Down told the court what the Crown said was a "selective" view of the evidence, and his client was not involved in Kingi's death.

The trial is set down to last two weeks.

- Auckland Now

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