Row over pup ends in life for murder

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2013
Selwyn Cornelius
SELWYN CORNELIUS: Visited his daughter and cuddled and kissed his grandchildren the same day he committed murder.

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What started as a spat over a puppy defecating on a neighbour's property escalated into a violent murder in front of children in the East Coast settlement of Tolaga Bay.

Selwyn Cornelius killed neighbour Mark Paaka on October 31 by crashing into him with his car and repeatedly running over him.

He confessed to the killing the same day, and pleaded guilty last month.

Yesterday, in the High Court at Gisborne, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 15 years and six months.

The dispute began over complaints from Cornelius that Paaka's four-month-old puppy was "doing its business" in his garden and digging up vegetables.

Paaka, 40, and his partner had moved to the property just a few months earlier. Cornelius, 51, had lived in the area for years.

The two men knew each other well, as Paaka was related to Cornelius's partner and he would often visit Cornelius's house.

On October 30, Cornelius told Paaka's partner to keep the puppy tied up as he was going to set gin traps.

The next day, as Paaka began building a kennel for his puppy, he heard it scream in pain from Cornelius's property.

He found Cornelius holding a large piece of wood and yelling at him, threatening to knock the puppy on the head.

Paaka collected the puppy, and he and Cornelius began yelling and swearing at each other.

Cornelius then drove to a friend's house and told him he wanted to kill Paaka.

The friend managed to calm Cornelius and the pair went and set fishing nets in a nearby river.

In the afternoon, Cornelius went to his daughter's house and cuddled and kissed his grandchildren before meeting his friend and checking the nets at 4pm.

About 8pm Paaka was out walking with a friend when Cornelius aimed his Honda Accord sedan at them and yelled, "I'm gonna f***in' kill you," before speeding at Paaka.

Paaka was hit and flew into the air before landing on the bonnet, smashing the windscreen, and falling to the ground.

His friend tried to pull him to safety but Cornelius spun his car around and drove back towards them at speed.

He ran over Paaka then turned his car around again and ran over him again, this time trapping him under the front of the car.

He reversed and accelerated forward again, trapping Paaka under the car again, before driving into a fence.

All this was seen by a group of children and residents.

Ambulance staff arrived but Paaka could not be resuscitated.

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Cornelius then drove to his fishing friend's place.

His friend drove him to the police station, where Cornelius confessed to the killing.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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