Prison-van murder accused given name suppression

A North Shore man was given name suppression when he appeared in court today charged with the murder of Liam Ashley, the teenager who died last week after being attacked in a prison van.

The man, who stood in the dock at Auckland District Court wearing handcuffs, was granted interim name suppression until 2.15pm tomorrow.

He was remanded in custody and will return to court tomorrow when evidence will be heard from an overstayer, who was also in the van, and is due to be deported on Saturday.

Liam's parents, Ian and Lorraine Ashley, sat at the back of the court during the short hearing.

Earlier today, Liam's lawyer said the teenager feared for his safety in custody.

>> Read the transcript of Liam's last court hearing

Geoffrey Anderson said Liam, 17, had appeared before the courts several times over the past several months. He also had a history in the youth justice system.

Mr Anderson visited Liam while he was in custody, prior to last Thursday's court appearance, as he was worried about him. The lawyer was accompanied by a forensic nurse as Liam was "tense" and "upset" he would not be released on bail.

Liam had raised concerns about his safety and indicated he was being picked on in jail. Mr Anderson said Liam's concerns were justified.

"Liam was not very old, slight of build and very vulnerable," he said.

Both men managed to calm Liam down and had a "nice conversation" with him, he said. Liam was in "good spirits" when they left him, he said.

Liam was found unconscious when the Chubb prison van arrived at the prison last Thursday night. He died in hospital the next day when his parents allowed a life-support system to be turned off.

Mr Anderson said Liam's court appearances were a matter of public record and he had a history of breaching bail. Liam had also committed a series of thefts from his own home.

Liam's parents decided to press criminal charges against their son after he took their vehicle without permission in a bid to stop him getting into more serious trouble after a series of "minor misdemeanours".

He was appearing before the North Shore Court on a number of charges including breach of bail, burglary and driving while forbidden.

He was on a final warning from the court after breaching bail -- including a curfew -- a number of times.

Mr Anderson said as Liam was his client and not his parents, he had told the court he would rather not see the teenager remain in custody.

The judge asked if 17-year-olds were segregated from other prisoners and a probation officer then told the court there was a youth wing for those under 20 and "Liam Ashley would almost certainly be kept there", Mr Anderson said.

Liam was locked with two other prisoners into one of four compartments in the back of the van for the trip from North Shore District Court to Mt Eden last Thursday night.

Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Cramer said police had a "fairly good picture" of what happened in the van.

He told National Radio today: "We've spoken to all of the prisoners [in the van] and the picture that we have built up of what occurred in there is really an amalgam of the accounts of all of those people."

- NZPA

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