Fawcett found guilty of murder

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 18:20 11/03/2014
Iain McGregor

Detective Inspector Greg Williams, Robin Manning (brother of Mellory) and Anna Reed from Prostitutes Collective react to the guilty verdict.

Ngatai
Ngatai "Mellory" Manning.
Mauha Huatahi Fawcett
Dean Kozanic
GUILTY: Mauha Huatahi Fawcett, 26, murdered sex worker Mellory Manning.

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A 26-year-old Mongrel Mob prospect has been found guilty of murdering Christchurch sex worker Mellory Manning.

The jury returned its guilty verdict on Mauha Huatahi Fawcett at 11.10am after about six hours of deliberations.

Manning's brother was "absolutely ecstatic" over the verdict, but police say their enquiry is not over as others were "clearly involved" in her death.

Fawcett represented himself in defending a charge of murder while the Crown brought more than 100 witnesses.

It proved Fawcett had been the principal or a party to the 27-year-old's fatal bashing at a former Mongrel Mob pad in Galbraith Ave, Avonside, on December 18, 2008. 

The Crown's case hinged on admissions Fawcett made about his involvement.

Fawcett told police in an interview that he hit Manning with a pole, which had a hook on it, during the fatal assault.

He also said he had been supposed to carry out a "hit" on Manning to get patched.

A former Mongrel Mob member also testified that Fawcett admitted to him that he had stabbed Manning.

Fawcett, a Mongrel Mob prospect with a bulldog tattoo on his cheek, said he had lied when he made admissions to police about his and others' roles in the killing.

He had been "coached" into it by police, or he was high on methamphetamine (P), or he had been wanting to stay in prison away from the Mongrel Mob.

However, the jury rejected Fawcett's claims. They accepted the Crown view that Fawcett had no reason to lie when he confessed.

INJURIES WORSE THAN A 'GRUESOME MOVIE'

Members of the public gallery clapped at the verdict.

Manning's brother Robin said outside court the verdict was what the family had hoped for and he was "absolutely ecstatic.

"It's a huge relief. A lot of butterflies were going on in the courtroom."

He said the injuries his sister sustained were "terrible" and worse than "the most gruesome movie".

"It's hard to think of us growing up and her being my sister. It's not nice."

He said the guilty verdict was "the right result" and was "the first step" towards justice for his sister.

Investigation head Detective Inspector Greg Williams said outside court the verdict would bring "some measure of relief" for Manning's family.

However, he said the investigation was ongoing as it was "very clear" others were involved.

"We certainly intend bringing those people to justice."

Williams became emotional as he paid tribute to his investigation team for their "methodical" work, and to Manning's family for their "courage and patience" over the last five years.

He was confident the offender dubbed "male B" - whose DNA profile was obtained from a semen sample - was involved in the murder and would be identified.

"We're in the process of obtaining a large amount of samples from both within the Mongrel Mob and also from members of the public."

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Male B was "closely associated" with the Mongrel Mob, said Williams.

Justice David Gendall remanded Fawcett in custody for sentencing on May 1. He thanked the jury for their service.

'PROFOUND EFFECT' ON OTHER SEX WORKERS

Prostitutes Collective regional coordinator Anna Reed sat through almost the entire trial and said she "could not praise the police work highly enough".

"It's such a good verdict. She was part of our family too."

She said some evidence was "really hard to get my head around" as it revealed "a lot of violence and hatred".

Reed said Manning's death had "a profound effect" on Christchurch sex workers. 

Some workers left the street, while a host of new safety measures were implemented on Manchester St.

The murder highlighted the dangers of individuals with "horrific agendas".

"I think there are going to be more arrests to come," she added.

HUI HELD BY MONGREL MOB

The Crown said Manning was picked up from the corner of Manchester and Peterborough streets about 10.40pm, driven to the pad and murdered "without hesitation".

She was raped, strangled, bashed with weapons and stabbed. Her body was dumped in the Avon River about 11pm.

Cellphone evidence showed a "hui" had been called by another Mongrel Mob member about 8pm.

Fawcett was seen by witnesses in Manchester St that night.

A witness said he and another patched Mob member had told her they were looking for "Mel" because she owed money.

He gave police several versions of the killing, which tallied with her injuries.

Extremely rare pollen found on her clothing was an exact genetic match to pollen from the Mongrel Mob pad.

Fawcett also told police he had cleaned the vehicle used to transport her body. Another witness said Fawcett turned up at her house early on December 19 covered in blood.

He left Christchurch shortly after the killing.

Fawcett later backtracked on his admissions, saying he knew nothing of the murder.

But the jury decided he did know the Mongrel Mob wanted to kill Manning - and that he helped carry it out.

DANGERS OF NARKING

A gang expert said Fawcett would need protection for committing the Mob's "cardinal sin" – talking to police about patched mobsters while discussing the murder.

Jarrod Gilbert, a University of Canterbury lecturer and the author of Patched – The History of Gangs in New Zealand, said Fawcett would have to spend his jail term in prison protection.

"As long as the Mongrel Mob exists, he's in danger," Gilbert said today.

"Protection wings are full of narks and paedophiles. That will be his life."

In the Mongrel Mob, the code of silence was "paramount".

The code of silence was designed to protect the gang and its members, who did not have redress to normal criminal justice avenues.

To speak to police about fellow gang members' crimes or activities was "the ultimate betrayal".

"The idea of narking is a cardinal sin," Gilbert said.

"If someone offends against them, they take care of business."

There were exceptions. From time to time, a member might nark on moral grounds, but only over extremes in brutal behaviour.

The more common reason was to save oneself from going to jail or to get a reduced sentence.

During his High Court trial, Fawcett named four Mongrel Mob members when interviewed by police about Manning's killing.

Those gang members received name suppression.

Fawcett later claimed his statements were lies – told while he was high on methamphetamine or due to police "coaching" – and said he feared the Mongrel Mob would have "his head on a stick".

Gilbert said people who were attracted to the Mongrel Mob often came from some of the country's most dysfunctional families and were desperate to find acceptance.

A prospect's "formal initiation" could take a year or longer – and not all were equal, he said.

If a prospect had "great form", they could be ushered through reasonably easily. If they were weak, they could be badly abused.

During the initiation, prospects were "at the beck and call" of patched gang members.

That could be anything from menial tasks such as guarding the club house, running errands or being a sober driver, through to committing criminal acts and putting your hand up to crimes of others, he said.

"When you enter the gang realm, they become your family, your whole social circle. It can be your entire life. Once you nark on them, it is a very lonely existence."

Some Mongrel Mob members would disapprove of Manning's killing, but they were unlikely to care about any impact on their reputation, Gilbert said.

TRIAL STATISTICS

4 week trial

100+ Crown witnesses gave evidence

1465 statements taken by police

130 vacant properties identified as possible murder scenes

65 phases to the investigation

7 in the core homicide team

5 years of investigation, so far

- The Press

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