Lawyer received bad health news

By Yvonne Tahana

Friend Sir Bob Jones leads tributes to Greg King - and denies he was affected by public criticism.

Greg King loved beautiful cars and boxing and claimed to have been known as the Canvas Kisser in his youth. Photo / Richard Robinson
Greg King loved beautiful cars and boxing and claimed to have been known as the Canvas Kisser in his youth. Photo / Richard Robinson

High-profile defence lawyer Greg King had received disturbing health news just days before he was found dead at the weekend.

The body of the 43-year-old was found beside his car on Saturday morning in the Wellington suburb of Newlands.

In a column today dedicated to his close friend, Sir Bob Jones writes that while Mr King accepted a diagnosis of diabetes last year as "a minor nuisance", a "fresh problem" with the diagnosis arose last week.

He said the suggestion he had been affected by public condemnation of the Ewen Macdonald not guilty verdict in the Scott Guy murder trial was wrong. Instead, the lawyer accepted opprobrium was part of his job.

A police spokesman would not comment on a post-mortem examination yesterday after coroner Wallace Bain issued a written warning to media about the conditions which apply to reporting deaths referred to the coroner.

Of Ngati Tuwharetoa descent and the son of a prison officer, Mr King grew up in Turangi. He loved beautiful cars and boxing - he claimed to have been known as the Canvas Kisser in his youth. Rugby league, animals, collecting art, alcohol and fried food made that list, too.

In 2007 he was named Barrister of the Year and was the host of The Court Report, on the now defunct TVNZ 7, which focused on contemporary legal issues. He practised with his wife, Catherine Milnes-King, out of Lower Hutt.

The mother of Sophie Elliott, murdered by Clayton Weatherston whom Mr King defended, said she was "shattered" by his death.

While the family might not have appreciated Mr King's "tactics" during Weatherston's trial, the lawyer earned their admiration and respect.

His personal side was sympathetic, generous, passionate and humane, she said. She had attended justice forums at which Mr King was a lone voice on some issues. He was prepared to be at odds with others, but the "great thing about him" was an ability to listen and engage.

Sophie's father, Gil Elliott, said Mr King was extremely intelligent, courteous and friendly. "He admired Sophie, he told me that."

Contemporaries agreed. Auckland Crown Solicitor Simon Moore, SC, said the thing he most admired about Mr King was his "completely principled approach to everything he did". He had a "sense of proportion" which made him such an effective advocate.

"He understood what juries liked and what juries didn't like. But I think it's important to remember it wasn't just before juries, but also in tribunals, and I'd appeared against him at the Court of Appeal ... He was very much a man for all seasons.

"His word was his bond."

Mr King worked to stop Auckland criminal barrister Barry Hart from being struck off by the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal for misconduct this year. The pair had also worked together on the defence of samurai sword killer Antonie Dixon.

Mr Hart said Mr King was the architect of Dixon's appeal and eventual 2008 retrial. He added that he was reeling from his friend's death.

"He's helped me and gone beyond the call of duty to assist me both as a friend and as a fellow lawyer in my time of need. I don't want to really go into all of that but Greg was there for me and, as I say, I'm in disbelief."

Convicted double murderer John Barlow told 3 News: "In prison, people talk about lawyers a lot. There's only one lawyer that came up a lot and every single time people praised him, whether he'd won their case or not."

Mr King's funeral will be held at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul on Friday at 11am.


Key defences

Scott Watson (2003)

Took an unsuccessful case to the Privy Council seeking leave to appeal against double convictions for murder.

John Barlow (2008)

Convicted of the murders of Wellington businessman Gene Thomas and his son Eugene in 1995 after three trials. King's appeal to the Privy Council in 2008 was dismissed.

Clayton Weatherston (2009)

Second counsel to Judith Ablett Kerr, QC. Weatherston was found guilty of murdering Sophie Elliott.

Virender Singh (2009)

Successfully represented South Auckland liquor shop owner Virender Singh, cleared of assaulting with a hockey stick two men he believed were robbing his store.

Ewen Macdonald (2012)

Macdonald was cleared of the murder of his brother-in-law Scott Guy.


- additional reporting: Andrew Koubaridis and the Otago Daily Times

- NZ Herald

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