Tributes for dead lawyer Greg King

PASSIONATE ABOUT JUSTICE: Greg King giving his closing address during the Ewen Macdonald case.
PASSIONATE ABOUT JUSTICE: Greg King giving his closing address during the Ewen Macdonald case.

He was known for defending notorious criminals but New Zealand lost "something very special" when high-profile lawyer Greg King was found dead on Saturday morning, a prominent Hamilton barrister says.

Fellow defence lawyer Roger Laybourn was shocked to hear Mr King's body was discovered lying face down on a grass verge in a quiet suburban street in Wellington about 10.30am.

"I'm genuinely very, very, distressed," he said.

"I still can't believe it. I had my photograph with him down at the Ferrybank building in August. We cracked some jokes together and he just seemed to be on the verge of going . . . everywhere."

Mr King's death is a suspected suicide and has been referred to the coroner.

Mr King, 43, was the theatrical criminal lawyer who successfully defended Ewen Macdonald against the charge of murdering Scott Guy and was well known for defending other high-profile criminals.

In August, Mr King spoke about the media's role in reporting the trial in front of 100 well-known guests, including Mr Laybourn, and students at the Wintec Press Club event at Hamilton's Ferrybank building.

Mr Laybourn first got to know Mr King while taking part in an episode of The Court Report television show that Mr King hosted on the now defunct TVNZ7.

Mr Laybourn warmed to Mr King immediately.

He recognised in him a kind of kindred spirit who had travelled down the same rocky defence lawyer road.

The pair stayed in touch regularly after the show aired.

They were like "a couple of old battle veterans" sharing notes, Mr Laybourn recalled.

"It was great to sit and talk to somebody who is passionate about his job. Because if you're a defence lawyer you believe you are playing a vital democratic function. And you genuinely do because you see the inequalities that come through the courts."

Mr Laybourn said the pair shared a perception that the New Zealand public are often misread - despite political affiliations, Kiwis believe in fairness in the courts and that a person has the right to defend themselves.

"I thought [King] was somebody who was balancing the negative reports that just seem to constantly turn out from politicians and various media outlets about the role of a defence lawyer.

"He managed to convey, in a very human sense, the importance of the role and the importance of it to a viable democracy. As a colleague, I found that inspirational and something I was extremely grateful for."

Mr Laybourn regarded Mr King as the epitome of professionalism, a man of enormous energy and someone who could manage many fingers in many pies.

The real mark of of a lawyer's ability in Mr Laybourn's book is success in appeal courts and for Mr King to have succeeded twice in the Privy Council was "astonishing".

"That makes him very, very special."

The father of two young children - Pippa, 5, and Millie, 4 - Mr King ran a practice with his wife, Catherine Milnes-King, out of Lower Hutt.

As well as Ewen Macdonald, he acted for Clayton Weatherston, John Barlow, Scott Watson and Bruce Howse.

Waikato Times