Jailed for punching neighbour to death

Last updated 12:27 16/04/2014

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A South Auckland man who punched a neighbour to death and "started to enjoy it" has been jailed for at least 17 years.

In February, Kaveinga Helotu Lavemai, 29, was found guilty at the High Court in Auckland of murdering Richard John Lees, a 55-year-old man who lived in a sleepout next door to his Manurewa address.

Today he was sentenced by Justice Murray Gilbert to life imprisonment.

Lees was found dead in the converted garage on October 12, 2012 and Lavemai was arrested three days later, after police found him at his aunt's house.

At the trial he was also found guilty of the theft of a stereo and a games console.

Crown prosecutor Alysha McClintock said Lees suffered at least 11 vicious blows to the head and neck.

On Lavemai's own evidence, the victim had been knocked out by the third punch, she said.

After the attack he told friends there was a voice in his had telling to keep punching.

Justice Gilbert said: "You told one person, [that] after a while you started enjoying it because it gave you a thrill."

A pathologist found Lees would have lain on a couch struggling to breathe for at least 30 minutes after the attack.

Despite going back into the room more than once to steal the electronic goods, Lavemai did not help the victim, the judge said.

Staring at the offender while reading her victim impact statement, Lees' sister Gail Lees told Lavemai: "Your heart is dead".

"You live to prey on others. You're a dangerous, manipulative leech on society," she said.

"You brutally murdered a truly beautiful man, a man who wished to simply live his days in peace."

The court also heard from Lees' daughter Cherie who spoke of her "gut-wrenching, unbearable emotions" and recounted the day she saw her father's body.

"Dad was unrecognisable," she said.

"His face was swollen and there was lots of bruising. I had to suffer the horror of seeing him like that."

During the trial McClintock told the court Lavemai's life had been 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."

He owed money to 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.

Though Lavemai denied the offending throughout the trial, his lawyer Kelly-Ann Stoikoff said he had since "come to accept not only the reality, but the enormity of what he's done".

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The court heard about Lavemai's turbulent upbringing with his five siblings, who were shuffled around foster homes until they settled with their violent father.

- Stuff

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