Banjo killer appeals sentence

A Hungarian man sentenced to serve at least eight years in jail for bashing a 69-year-old gay man to death in Auckland has appealed his sentence.

Ferdinand Ambach, 31, was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter on the grounds that he was provoked into killing Ronald Brown in suburban Onehunga in December 2007.

Ambach was acquitted of murder after successfully arguing he was provoked, alleging Mr Brown made an unwanted sexual advance on him after a night of drinking.

Ambach's lawyer Peter Kaye confirmed to NZPA today that an appeal had been filed.

Mr Kaye said the sentence handed down in the High Court at Auckland of 12 years in jail, with a minimum non-parole period of eight years, had been appealed on the grounds that it was excessive.

He said the conviction itself was not appealed.

Justice Helen Winkelmann said during sentencing that the jury appeared to have found the act of provocation was Brown touching Ambach's thigh and groin for a very brief period.

Justice Winkelmann said this act was at the lowest level of provocation under the law.

She said there was no evidence of any rape, and no evidence of Ambach's drink being spiked as he claimed.

Ambach subsequently bashed Mr Brown with a banjo before ramming the neck of the instrument down his throat.

He then extensively trashed Mr Brown's house, throwing a bed out of it and some other objects onto Mr Brown, who was seriously injured on the stairs.

Ambach's acquittal of murder, together with the unsuccessful use of the provocation defence by murderer Clayton Weatherson were among the cases which led the Government to announce it was looking at outlawing provocation as a defence.

Weatherston, who was sentenced in July to a minimum of 18 years in jail as part of his life sentence for murdering his ex-girlfriend Sophie Elliott in Dunedin, has appealed his conviction.

- NZPA

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