'Scum of the earth' Killer Clown Fiends case continues

Faye and Ron Bishop, the mother and step-father of murdered man Dean Browne. Photo / Herald on Sunday
Faye and Ron Bishop, the mother and step-father of murdered man Dean Browne. Photo / Herald on Sunday

Closure is a long way off for the parents of an Auckland man who was bashed to death by Killer Clown Fiend gang members.

Dean Browne, 38, was fatally beaten in an Oriental Bay flat and his body was later found in a New Plymouth garage.

The latest chapter in the case saw Faye and Ron Bishop sitting through an appeal in Wellington yesterday as they continue to support their son's human rights through the courts.

It's been two years and 10 months since Mr Browne's stepfather, Mr Bishop, was told that his stepson had been killed. Despite two men being found guilty of the murder and sentenced to life behind bars with a minimum non-parole period of 18 years, Mr Bishop said he still finds himself sitting in a court room.

"It just reinforces the flippant waste of taxpayers' money," he said.

"What aggrieves me more than anything else, where's Dean's human rights, where are our rights?

"Why do the scum of the earth have more human rights?"

Mikhail Pandey-Johnson, who was 23 at the time, and Karl Nuku, who was 18, were both found guilty of the murder in the "body-in-the-garage" trial.

On the instructions of Pandey-Johnson, the leader of drug-dealing gang Killer Clown Fiends, Nuku repeatedly struck Mr Browne over the head with a hammer before his body was dumped in the garage of a New Plymouth house.

The Court of Appeal has heard an appeal into the conviction and sentence of both men.

Pandey-Johnson's lawyer Michele Wilkinson-Smith called into question the credibility of the key police witness, and told the court that the witness - who spent almost a week in the stand during the five-week trial - was unreliable.

The key witness, who has name suppression and is known simply as CW29, was in the bedroom when Mr Browne was bashed, but was granted police immunity against prosecution if she gave evidence against the accused.

Ms Wilkinson-Smith said CW29 should have been one of the accused, not a witness.

In her evidence, CW29 said she woke to Mr Browne being bashed and admitted administering about 20 milligrams of liquid morphine to Mr Browne to ease his pain caused by the beating.

Ms Wilkinson-Smith said CW29's evidence should not have been admitted and, in fact, she should have been up on murder, manslaughter and class A drug dealing charges.

All evidence "pointed to her being in it boots and all".

Ms Wilkinson-Smith said CW29 was never fully honest with police, and said text messages about a kidnap plot pointed to CW29 being involved in the case much more than she let on.

Ms Wilkinson-Smith also said a Crown expert witness had not excluded the possibility that the morphine injected by CW29 may have killed Mr Browne.

The Crown witness said it was unlikely, but it was not ruled out completely.

"The question must be, what did kill him? ... the morphine was capable of killing him."

Nuku's lawyer, Lester Cordwell, said the text messages, behaviour before and afterwards, and to a certain degree things CW29 said in statements, brought her evidence into disrepute.

CW29's refusal on six occasions to answer questions about the morphine injection also created problems during the trial, he said.

"There is no clear statement that it was done after the blows ... there's no clear statement about how long after the blows when the morphine was injected," he said.

It left a massive gap in the narrative which meant the jury was not able to answer what the substantive cause of death was.

But Crown lawyer David Boldt said the evidence showed that the beating Mr Browne suffered was fatal, and maybe added to that was an injection of morphine.

Evidence given at trial that Mr Browne died as the result of blows to the head was consistent with toxicology reports.

The evidence also went unchallenged at trial, Mr Boldt said.

"The Crown did prove causation at trial."

Speaking after today's appeal hearing, Mr Bishop said he could not believe that the credibility of everyone, including the judge and expert witnesses, were being called into question.

The trial judge, Justice Mark Woolford, did everything he should have done, Mr Bishop said.

"If he's the face of the new justice system I can see light at the end of the tunnel."

Mr Bishop said he and his wife, Faye, would like to see the families of homicide victims have Crown representation through the entire court journey.

In March this year the couple appeared before Parliament's justice and electoral committee to speak about planned law changes for victims of crime.

"If we don't do it then there's no likelihood of any change.

"Sooner or later something must stick. We've just got to keep chugging away."

The Court of Appeal reserved its decision.

- APNZ

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