Self-defence claim in gang-related knifing case

By Michele McPherson

A Tauranga teenager claims he acted in self defence after allegedly stabbing another teen in a gang-related confrontation.
Joel Matiu, 18, of Greerton, whose trial began in Tauranga District Court yesterday, is defending one count of wounding with reckless disregard for the safety of Tupaea Kerr, who was 18 at the time.
The stabbing occurred outside a Somerset Grove address on the afternoon of October 3, 2009.
Kerr was rushed to Tauranga Hospital with a pierced liver.
He had surgery to remove his gallbladder after being stabbed with an 8-inch knife beneath the rib cage.
If the knife had entered Kerr's body just centimetres higher, it could have gone through his heart and killed him instantly, police say.
Crown prosecutor Julie O'Brien told the jury that the stabbing incident occurred after Mr Kerr, who was drunk at the time and waiting at the top of the driveway for his girlfriend and sister-in-law to return from the shops, got into a verbal altercation with Matiu.
Mrs O'Brien said Matiu had come to the scene looking for trouble with the large hunting knife tucked into a red bandanna around his waist. He quickly pulled it out, waved it around then thrust it into Mr Kerr.
After running off still carrying the knife, Matiu boasted to his mates about what he had done and the weapon was later wiped clean and given to a female associate for disposal, she said.
Mrs O'Brien said even if Kerr had challenged him to a fight, Matiu could easily have walked away, but chose not to do so and therefore was not acting in self defence.


But Matiu's lawyer Craig Horsley urged the jury to keep an open mind and wait until they had heard all the evidence.
Mr Horsley said there was no doubt Kerr was stabbed and received a serious wound, but the dispute was whether it was a deliberate or reckless act rather than accidental.
Under questioning from Mr Horsley, Mr Kerr - who admitted he was associated with the Westside Crips - conceded he might have challenged the accused to a one-on-one fight but claimed he could not remember most of what occurred due to his intoxication.
Mr Kerr also claimed he did not know he had been stabbed until he woke up in Tauranga Hospital.
Mr Kerr's girlfriend Jana Edwards said she witnessed a verbal altercation between him and Matiu but after an attempt to drag Kerr away, she was pushed away.
She headed back up the driveway into the house but minutes later opened the door to see Mr Kerr standing there holding his stomach.
One of Matiu's two young associates with him that night gave evidence of how Mr Kerr had confronted Matiu as they walked along the road and asked him whether he was "a dog" - a reference to the Mongrel Mob - then challenged him to a fight.
He said after Mr Kerr "lunged" at Matiu throwing several wild punches, Matiu pulled out the knife from his pants and held it down at his side telling Mr Kerr to "F-off" or he would stab him and that Matiu started backing off.
The other young man also gave evidence of seeing Matiu pull out the knife but claimed he and his mate never saw Matiu stab Mr Kerr, as they ran off after seeing another man jump the fence with a pole.
The trial is expected to conclude today.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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