Epsom motel murderer admits assault after violent melee

Assault victim Mario Koch with daughter Celeste and wife Stefanie.
TONY WALL/ FAIRFAX NZ

Assault victim Mario Koch with daughter Celeste and wife Stefanie.

A man who was beaten unconscious on his property by a teenager who went on to kill says the man's death could have been prevented if police took his assault complaint seriously. 

Convicted murderer Beauen Wallace-Loretz, 19, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to an amended charge of assault following a group attack on Puhoi man Mario Koch in September 2014.

However, he won't serve any extra time in prison for assault. The law states that since he's serving a life sentence that term can't be extended.  

Beauen Wallace-Loretz outside the High Court following earlier appearances. He is now serving a life sentence.
ALEX BURTON/FAIRFAX NZ

Beauen Wallace-Loretz outside the High Court following earlier appearances. He is now serving a life sentence.

Wallace-Loretz and three other teens were attending a barn party in Puhoi, north Auckland, when the party descended into violence, with partygoers vandalising parts of the property.

READ MORE: 
Man accused of serious assault went on to commit murder while police struggled to find witnesses
Mario Koch assault case reopened

Things turned violent after Koch's son confronted Wallace-Loretz and his companions with an air rifle.

Mario Koch was assaulted by Beauen Wallace-Loretz months before Wallace-Loretz went on to kill Ihaia Gillman-Harris.
SUPPLIED

Mario Koch was assaulted by Beauen Wallace-Loretz months before Wallace-Loretz went on to kill Ihaia Gillman-Harris.

When he went back inside and returned with his father, Mario Koch, the group appeared to believe that Koch was armed too and subsequently "overreacted", Wallace-Loretz's lawyer told the Auckland District Court at sentencing on Tuesday. 

Koch armed himself with a piece of wood to defend himself but he and the neighbour were attacked by the group.

Both men were left unconscious and Koch suffered a broken nose, a fractured eye socket, and a broken tooth.

He also had ongoing issues with headaches and numbness.

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Koch was shocked to learn that months after the assault on him, Wallace-Loretz had gone on to kill Auckland man Ihaia Gillman-Harris. 

In January 2015, Wallace-Loretz and friend Leonard Nattriss-Berquist assaulted Gillman-Harris in an Epsom motel room, causing his death. 

The pair were found guilty at trial of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. 

Wallace-Loretz is serving a minimum non-parole period of 11 years. 

Koch feels the police investigation into his complaint wasn't thorough, and believes Gillman-Harris' death could have been prevented if police had taken an earlier interest in his case. 

It wasn't until four months after the assault, in January 2015 and by which time Gillman-Harris was already dead, that police re-opened the case and brought charges against the group for the attack on Koch.

That was despite Koch handing the names of the assailants to police immediately.  

Two teenagers, one a youth, pleaded guilty to wounding charges.

Wallace-Loretz and co-accused Caleb Davis denied the offending and two years after the incident were set to stand trial at the Auckland District Court this week on charges of wounding. 

A jury was impanelled on Monday but on Tuesday the pair agreed to plead to lesser charges, following an amendment of the summary of facts by the Crown.

The original summary said Wallace-Loretz had repeatedly kicked Koch, but he plead to an assault charge on the basis he had only punched him once.

Davis plead guilty to a charge of assault and assault with intent to injure.

Wallace-Loretz's lawyer John Kovacevich - who defended him during his murder trial - told Judge Jonathan Down that open-ended terms of imprisonment meant any further jail term Wallace-Loretz was sentenced to could only be served concurrently with his current jail term.

"The practical effect is nil," Kovacevich said.

He asked Judge Down to consider convicting and discharging him without sentence.

"It's a situation where a group of people, more than just the four [who were charged], had too much to drink ... Mr Koch's son came out with a gun and things went strange ... there was some serious overreaction here." 

Judge Down said a conviction and discharge wouldn't reflect the seriousness of the offending and imposed a sentence of one month's imprisonment.

Davis will be sentenced next year. 

 - Stuff

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