Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

14-year term for 'brutal, callous' killing

John Tokoroa Bunt. Photo / Christine Cornege
John Tokoroa Bunt. Photo / Christine Cornege

John Tokoroa Bunt had never been in trouble with the law before he murdered his girlfriend's father in a "brutal and callous" attack, which yesterday earned him a prison sentence of at least 14 years.

The 22-year-old was sentenced in the High Court at Hamilton by Justice Raynor Asher, who said Bunt's savage and depraved act against the defenceless Wiremu Tamanui Awa had not only taken away his partner's father, but also the grandfather of his own child.

The court heard how on April 19 last year, Bunt had been drinking at a friend's house in Huntly and was in a confrontational mood when he left to get more beer.

Then 21, Bunt, who had a 1-year-old son from a tumultuous four-year relationship with one of Mr Awa's daughters, spied the father of seven walking alone up a nearby dark alley about 8pm. Bunt yelled abuse at Mr Awa before punching him to the ground. He continued to punch the 48-year-old about the face and head.

Mr Awa tried to defend himself but Bunt stomped on his head up to six times, which rendered his victim unconscious.

Bunt then fled back to the friend's house and in the kitchen he saw a knife, grabbed it and ran back to the scene.

Mr Awa was on his knees, still groggy from the serious assault and in a vulnerable state, Justice Asher said.

"You came up behind him and took hold of his head and cut Mr Awa's throat by repeated sawing motions and in doing so, you killed him."

Covered in his victim's blood, Bunt raced back to the house and washed his clothes, shoes and the knife.

He then asked his friend to help dispose of Mr Awa's body but the friend said no.

Bunt went back to the body, which he had left face down on the vacant section in Shaw St, and dragged Mr Awa to a nearby railway line, where he covered the body in vegetation.

Mr Awa's body was finally found by his sister, Noelene Moana, on May 3, 2011, despite Bunt telling members of the community he had killed Mr Awa.

In a victim impact statement, Ms Moana said she and her family searched for Mr Awa for 10 days.

She said her brother did not deserve what Bunt did and she felt an "intense hatred" for the offender.

Tania Moana, Mr Awa's partner of 30 years and the mother of his seven children, said she still grieved for him.

"One day soon I will find it in my heart to forgive you, Tokoroa, for this heinous crime."

Totara Moana, 18, and sister Te Inu Moana, 13, who walk to school past the place where their father was killed, said they were devastated by his death.

In summing up, Justice Asher accepted there was animosity between Bunt and Mr Awa, who in September 2008 was convicted and sentenced to three months in prison for possession of an offensive weapon in relation to an offence against Bunt.

However, he said it did not reduce the seriousness of the crime committed by Bunt, who at that time had a good job, a good relationship, a young son and no previous convictions.

The "high level of brutality, cruelty, depravity and callousness in the murder" was out of character for Bunt, who had expressed genuine and heartfelt remorse for his actions.

Handing down the mandatory life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 14 years, Justice Asher said he took into account Bunt's last-minute guilty plea on the day before a trial was due to start, his confession to the police, the fact he had no previous convictions, his good character and his youth.

He told Bunt, who sat impassively in the dock, that he had not only destroyed his own life but had inflicted lifelong suffering on Mr Awa's family.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 26 Dec 2014 13:04:50 Processing Time: 521ms