Guilty plea 'won't bring sister back'

By Kristin Edge

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A Whangarei family still coming to terms with the death of a loved one have been spared the trauma of a court trial after the man charged with manslaughter has pleaded guilty.

Phillip Andre Mahanga, 33, entered his plea in the High Court at Whangarei on Friday and was remanded in custody until July 26 for sentencing.

Mahanga assaulted mother of two Patricia Anne McGrath, 34, who was taken to the Whangarei Hospital on January 4 after suffering head injuries during an assault in her Fairway Dr, Kamo, home the night before.

Ms McGrath - who has two children, aged 15 and 12 - was taken off life support two days after she was assaulted and died on January 8.

Her brother John McGrath was at the court when the plea was entered and said while Mahanga had admitted what he had done it would never bring back his sister, affectionately known as Wowo.

"It's one step closer to sentencing and knowing where this guy is going to be for the next three or four years. But it's not going to bring Wowo back," Mr McGrath said.

"We are relieved we won't have to go through the trial process that always brings up things you don't want to hear."

Since the death of his sister he said the family had been under immense pressure and they were still trying to come to terms with it, as were Wowo's two children, aged 12 and 15.

"It's definitely been a hard journey. The loss is still raw.

"It's hard to push away 34 years of my sister's life. It would be nice to flick a switch and forget, but you can't."

Officer in charge of the case Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Bourke said the guilty plea was a positive for the McGrath family.

"While it can't replace the life that has been lost, it goes towards easing the family of the anxiety that they don't have to appear in a court case."

At the time, Wowo's death sparked a march through central Whangarei streets to raise awareness that domestic violence was unacceptable and communities needed to stand up and help those caught in violent relationships.

About 500 people joined the peaceful march, led by Mr McGrath which included Queenie Dunn, mother of murdered 17-year-old Mairina Dunn; Karen Edwards, mother of Ashlee Edwards; and Steve Elliott, uncle of murdered woman Sophie Elliott.

The march went down Bank St, through the town's major intersection and back into Laurie Hall Park where several speakers got their message out to the hundreds gathered.

- Northern Advocate

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