Man jailed over attack on neighbour

AMY MAAS
Last updated 10:39 23/07/2013

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A 62-year-old man who admitted an assault on his 73-year-old neighbour who later died has been jailed.

Emanu Toafiga was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison in the High Court at Auckland this morning.

He was initially charged with manslaughter after the 2012 incident, but last month the charge was dropped and substituted for a charge of grievous bodily harm with intent.

Toafiga pleaded guilty to the charge in June.

In sentencing, Justice Pamela Andrews accepted that Toafiga was acting in self defence, but "in the heat of the moment lost self control".

"You did use serious violence. You hit him with a crowbar while he was lying vulnerable on the ground," Andrews said.

"The outcome was tragic, but it is accepted that the injuries you inflicted did not cause the death."

Leslie Otto, 73, died in hospital a few weeks after the fight but pathologists said he would not normally have died from the injuries sustained in the attack.

The pair had lived in pensioner flats in suburban Waterview for some years but had "difficulties" with each other. They had also previously appeared on the TV programme Neighbours from Hell.

On April 14 last year, they both went shopping at Point Chevalier and caught the same bus back to the flats.

Toafiga abused Otto at the bus stop until the bus arrived.

Later that day, Toafiga took some recycling out to the curb and as he returned home he was confronted by Otto, armed with a crowbar.

The older man said he was going to kill Toafiga and called him a "black, coconut bastard", the court was told.

He raised the bar to strike but Toafiga grabbed it and punched Otto in the face, knocking him to the ground.

He struck him with the bar three times on the torso and threatened to strike a neighbour who intervened.

A final blow was delivered before he threw the bar away, the court heard.

When police arrived, Toafiga was standing over Otto, yelling abuse at him.

Otto had broken arms and ribs and contusions from the blows. He died in hospital on May 2 from pneumonia and complications arising from the injuries and alzheimers disease.

Though the injuries "compounded" his illness, they would not normally have led to death by themselves, pathologists found.

In a victim impact read to the court by Otto's daughter Debbie Graham, she said the family would never forgive Toafiga after the "sickening shock" at seeing her father's injuries.

"We could not comprehend how someone could do this," she said.

"This was a weak and self-gratuitous act of violence and we will never forgive you."

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Graham said the family have never seen Toafiga express any remorse for his actions.

"That's the saddest part of this whole affair."

- Stuff

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