Life in jail for Mellory Manning murder

CONVICTED MURDERER: Mauha Huatahi Fawcett appears in the Christchurch High Court for his sentencing today.
Fairfax NZ
CONVICTED MURDERER: Mauha Huatahi Fawcett appears in the Christchurch High Court for his sentencing today.

The jailing of a Mongrel Mob gang prospect for killing a Christchurch sex worker is not the end of the police investigation into her death.

This morning, Mauha Huatahi Fawcett was jailed for at least 20 years as part of his life sentence for the murder of sex worker Mellory Manning, a killing the Crown described as "barbaric and senseless".

Crown prosecutor Phil Shamy said 27-year-old Manning's family had heard the chilling account of the victim crawling through her own blood while the gang members stood around shouting Nazi salutes and barking, before her mutilated body was dumped in the Avon River.

In a statement released after the Christchurch High Court sentencing, Detective Senior Sergeant Brian Archer said the police investigation remained "open and active".

Fawcett's conviction and sentencing was "a significant step" in the inquiry.

"There is, however, no dispute that other people were also involved in this murder, and police are continuing to actively pursue those individuals," he said.

Archer urged anyone with information that could help police identify the other offenders to come forward. He thanked witnesses who gave evidence at the trial and extended his sympathy to Manning's family and friends.

The sentencing of 26-year-old Mongrel Mob gang prospect Fawcett comes two months after a jury found him guilty of the December 18, 2008 murder.

Fawcett has always denied his direct involvement in the killing of Manning, who was also known as Ngatai Lynette Manning.

Shamy said Fawcett had been "a fully dedicated member" of the gang.

"He had fully embraced the gang life and what occurred on this evening."

Fawcett had been actively involved in the homicide by picking Manning up and taking her to a property in Galbraith Ave, Avonside, where the killing occurred.

He had also participated by striking her with a pole and disposing of her body.

Shamy said the murder had been carried out as a planned gang "hit" on Manning for refusing to pay the mob's tax on sex workers, or for drug debts. It was carried out with "brutality, cruelty, depravity and callousness".

In one of his interviews with police, Fawcett had described the killing as "a blood-bath".

Shamy described four weapons used in the killing - a pole, hammer, tomahawk, and knife.

He denied there had been any coercion to get Fawcett involved. He had been an active and willing participant. It was to be his hit to earn his gang patch - a full membership.

Fawcett was aged 21 at the time of the murder. Since his conviction, he has refused to co-operate in the preparation of his pre-sentence report.

Fawcett declined to say anything in court when given the chance by the judge.

His court-appointed legal adviser, Craig Ruane, told the court Fawcett had been found guilty of being a party to murder, but the court must make it clear at the sentencing what role it found the man played in the killing.

If the court found that his role had been as a look-out, to find Manning, and to open up the gang pad, the court could conclude that he played a relatively minor role in something which spiralled out of his control.

He submitted that the court should be wary of attributing any blame to Fawcett other than as a party on the periphery of the killing.

Justice Gendall acknowledged the presence of Manning's family and friends, and the loss they had suffered.

He said Fawcett had played a role in luring Manning into a car on Manchester St, and showing her a threatening text message from another mob member.

She was taken to a gang pad where she was attacked by members with dangerous weapons, inflicting 66 wounds to her body.

She had been sexually violated and raped, and subjected to a prolonged, merciless and violent attack by more than one person which ultimately caused her death.

"An innocent life was taken suddenly, violently, and needlessly," the judge said.

The victim impact statements told of "a family that has been broken forever".

Justice Gendall said Fawcett had an unfortunate background. He had been brought up in a gang environment and had been introduced to drug use at an early age.

He had been using cannabis since age eight and methamphetamine since age 14. He had never held a job.

Over the last eight years he had amassed 48 convictions and had spent a significant part of that time in prison.

Justice Gendall said he was satisfied that Fawcett played a significant role in the actual killing of Manning.

He considered Crown and defence submissions about the length of the non-parole term as part of the life sentence, and imposed 20 years.

He said Fawcett had not been the "mastermind" of the killing but he had been an active participant, rather than being on the periphery.

Outside court, Robin Manning said the sentencing marked was "the first step" of justice for his sister's killing. He was pleased with the 20-year non-parole period.

"I don't think we'll be celebrating it," he said.

"We're happy with the outcome, and it is longer than we thought it would be, but until more people are brought to justice, the community is actually at risk. So that should be the main focus."

Robin Manning had faith police would arrest Fawcett's co-offenders.

The trial and sentencing had been difficult, especially listening to the "horrible" details of his sister's murder with Fawcett sitting three metres away.

"I hope no-one else has to go through this," he said.

Manning's boyfriend, Kent Gorrie, said she had been a beautiful, fun-loving young woman "who was viciously taken away from me and everyone she touched".

"She inspired me to be better," he told the court.

"We loved each other in the most passion-filled days of my life. She pushed me into getting on the right path with my life. She was one in a billion."

Gorrie said outside court he would only be happy "when the rest of them are charged".

"They [police] know who they are . . . He's named them all, except Mr B. I know they're still out and about."

He hoped Fawcett would have sleepless nights for the next 20 years in jail.

"He's the one that's got to live with it now," he said.

"He's in protection, he's going to be in 24-hour lock-up for the next 20 years. That's enough to do anyone's head in."

Gorrie expected the Mongrel Mob would want to cut Fawcett's bulldog tattoo from his cheek for narking.

"He was just a wannabe, wanted to fit in with anyone."

Life without Manning was "lonely", he said.

"I miss her. [She is] never far from my mind."

His mother, Frances Gorrie, told Fawcett he was sadly mistaken if he thought it was "manly" to stand around a woman's battered body barking and shouting Nazi salutes. No-one there had been man enough to help her.

"Shame on you and your kind," she said.

The Press