Guilty plea over beating death

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 10:39 05/02/2014

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A Warkworth man has pleaded guilty to murdering his ex-partner by beating her to death with a rock two days before Christmas.

Mother-of-one Jasmine Cooper, 26, was killed at her Te Hana home on December 23, 2013.

In the High Court at Auckland today her ex-partner Gene Hepana 40, pleaded guilty to her murder.

The court was told the pair had been in a relationship for about a year before Cooper's death.

They lived together on Coronation St, Te Hana, north of Warkworth, until they separated after Hepana tried to strangle Cooper.

He was trespassed from the property but in the weeks before her death, Hepana called and texted Cooper almost daily, the court was told.

On the night of the murder, Hepana was drinking at his sister's house in Warkworth and at 1am he asked his father for a ride to Cooper's house.

He met her her house and spoke to her briefly before leaving and walking around Te Hana for a while. He returned to the house and Cooper saw him outside.

She text-messaged him to go away and, frightened, she texted her sister for help saying: "He's here and he won't go, he's creeping around my place".

Hepana grabbed Cooper as she stood on a porch and strangled her into submission, a police summary of facts said.

He picked up a large rock and dragged her to a spot beside the house, out of sight of the road.

Police said Hepana strangled Cooper into unconsciousness then beat her about the head and face until she was dead.

He fled the scene and disposed of the rock before demanding a ride back to Warkworth from a near-by resident.

He initially denied the crime but pleaded guilty in court today.

Justice Timothy Brewer remanded Hepana in custody to sentencing on March 18 and lifted the previous suppression of his name.

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