Guilty of murdering for debt
A South Auckland man has been found guilty of killing his neighbour to steal some electronics to repay a debt of less than $100.
Kaveinga Helotu Lavemai, 29, was found guilty in the High Court in Auckland of murdering Richard John Lees, a 55-year-old man who lived in a sleepout next door.
Lees was found dead in the converted garage on October 12, 2012.
Lavemai was arrested after police found him at his aunt's house three days later.
He was charged with murder and the theft of a stereo and games console.
Lees' sister, Gail Lees, of Wellington, said her brother was "a good honest man wanting to live a quiet life".
"He would give his left and right hand to a stranger," Gail Lees said.
Her brother had been killed in "an ugly, vicious, unprovoked assault", she said.
"He opened the door to a murderer."
"There was nothing in Richard's system – he wanted Richard to buy a tinny, he said no, he doesn't do that stuff, then just bang, a murderous, horrible assault."
Crown prosecutor Alysha McClintock told the court Lavemai's life was simple.
"He didn't work or have any source of money aside from what his girlfriend earned working as a prostitute at Manurewa's South Mall, or what he could borrow," McClintock said.
"His days were spent drinking and trying to source his next box of Woodstocks or Codys."
It is alleged he owed money to the people who lived at a property backing on to his, which prompted the incident.
"He owed them less than $100 but that wasn't the point, it had to be repaid ... they weren't the sort of people you could avoid," McClintock said.
In an initial interview, Lavemai told police he had not been on the neighbours' property and gave them details of his movements on October 11.
However, when they told him his fingerprints had been found and family and friends had made admissions to contradict his version of events, he changed his story.
Lavemai said he entered the property and claimed to have punched Lees three times "for no reason at all".
The Crown said that was not true and a pathologist gave evidence of an extensive attack.
"It wasn't one, two or three blows, it was multiple forceful blows and they caused substantial damage," McClintock said.
"The force of the blows caused bleeding to the head and airways and [Lees] died as a result."
Lavemai was remanded in custody for sentencing on April 15.
Gail Lees thanked the police and Crown for the "dignity and respect" they showed her brother.
The family was "shattered".
Lees said she had sat next to Richard's daughter, Cherie, 29, throughout the trial.
"We now have to live a life without Richard but we can always remember him with love and pride," she said.
Lees thanked the Sensible Sentencing Trust for its support throughout the trial.