The family of a man who was bashed to death with a banjo have angrily condemned the provocation law that allows a partial defence of murder after his killer was found guilty of manslaughter last night.
Ferdinand Ambach, a 31-year-old dive master from Hungary, had been accused of murdering Ronald James Brown, 69, after the pair got into a violent argument at Mr Brown's Onehunga flat on December 7, 2007.
He claims that Mr Brown, who was gay, made unwanted sexual advances towards him. During the trial in the High Court at Auckland, his lawyer, Peter Kaye, raised the possibility Mr Brown may have attempted to rape Ambach which triggered "a monstrous rage" where the tourist temporarily lost his self-control.
After three and a half days of deliberations, the verdict was delivered at 6.45pm. When Ambach was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter, there were gasps from Mr Brown's friends and family in the public gallery. Ambach was expressionless as he was remanded in custody until sentencing.
Mr Brown's niece Tracy Evans told the Herald her family were "deeply disgusted with the verdict". She said the [provocation] law was "archaic" and had allowed a murderer to receive a reduced sentence for a "horrific crime".
"It's a sad indictment on our legal system that the defence can completely fabricate a case and slander a good man's character in an attempt to defend a murderer."
Ms Evans said the police efforts had been outstanding.
Detective Inspector Greg Cramer, who led the police inquiry, said the defence's rape suggestion was "spurious".
"While Mr Kaye made the point, it was circumstantial [and] it was drawing a very large bow to suggest that had been attempted."
Mr Brown was found at the bottom of the stairs in his flat, covered in bits of furniture, and with a broken banjo sticking out of his mouth. He had been bashed with the instrument at least five times.
Ambach was found cowering in a cupboard upstairs. He later told police he had only vague memories of what happened.
Justice Helen Winkelmann ordered a pre-sentence report and called for victim impact statements before Ambach is sentenced on August 27.