Journalist Philip Cottrell's Killer free on supervision

Phil Cottrell's family is horrified his killer was on intensive supervision when the Wellington journalist was fatally beaten in a callous attack.

They learned details of Nicho Waipuka's violent past only when he was sentenced to 12 years and 10 months in prison in the High Court at Wellington yesterday.

Waipuka, 20, was cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter by a High Court jury in December.

His co-accused Manuel Robinson, 18, was cleared of all charges.

Mr Cottrell, who had brittle bones as a result of a genetic condition, suffered a shattered skull in the attack as he walked home from work at Radio New Zealand in central Wellington early on December 10, 2011. He died in hospital the next day.

It was revealed yesterday that just over two weeks before the attack, Waipuka had been sentenced to intensive supervision after he punched a stranger in the head, knocking him to the ground.

Waipuka pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced on November 22.

The judge at the time noted he should be sent to prison - but instead gave Waipuka a "last chance" by imposing a sentence of intensive supervision.

Seventeen days later, Waipuka went into town intending to "knock someone out".

He saw Mr Cottrell walking down Boulcott St, crossed the road and punched him in the head.

Waipuka then kicked or stomped on him, causing his skull to shatter and his arm to fracture, before taking Mr Cottrell's wallet and fleeing.

Mr Cottrell's brother-in-law, Heath Hollows, said if the judge had made a different decision, Mr Cottrell might be alive.

"Maybe he should have put him away and Phil would be here."

Mr Cottrell's sister, Susan Hollows, said no sentence would ever be enough, but it was better than they expected.

"I feel like the jury gave two angry thugs the benefit of the doubt rather than giving justice for an innocent man. But Justice Miller has done the best for us that he possibly could in the situation, and we're really, really grateful for that."

Mrs Hollows described Mr Cottrell as "one of life's gentlemen". APNZ

- Bay of Plenty Times

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