Cottrell trial: One guilty of manslaughter

Nicho Waipuka and Manuel Robinson. Photo/ Mark Mitchell
Nicho Waipuka and Manuel Robinson. Photo/ Mark Mitchell

The distraught family of Wellington journalist Phillip Cottrell say the city's streets are no safer now than they were a year ago when he was beaten to death as he walked home from work.

Nicho Waipuka, one of the two men accused of murdering Mr Cottrell, a Radio New Zealand bulletins editor was today cleared by a jury of murder but found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

His teenage co-accused, Manuel Robinson, was acquitted and walked free from court this afternoon.

When the verdicts were read out in the High Court at Wellington, Mr Cottrell's sister, Sue Hollows, simply bowed her head.

Outside court, she said she was "extremely disappointed" with the outcome, having sat through every piece of evidence during the trial.

"Phil was taken from us in the most tragic of circumstances, in an unnecessary and unprovoked attack."

Her husband Heath said he did not hold anything against the jury, but "we're just disappointed Wellington streets aren't any safer than what they were a year ago."

"In the hospital for 17 hours I watched my wife hold Phillip's hand and the next day she had to sit and watch him die, and it took over an hour and a half, and it's just so traumatic what's happened."

The officer in charge of the case, Detective Senior Sergeant Scott Miller, said police were disappointed with the verdict.

It was too early to say whether an appeal would be lodged, he said.

Mr Cottrell, who had brittle bones due to a genetic condition, suffered a shattered skull in the attack in Boulcott St as he walked home from work early on December 10 last year. He died in hospital the next day.

Robinson, 18, and Waipuka, 20, had been on trial for two weeks before the judge summed up and the jury returned their verdicts this afternoon after deliberating for about six hours.

Family of the accused could be heard sobbing when the verdicts were read out before Waipuka's family rushed from the court and refused to make any comment outside.

Robinson left the court room through a back entrance. One of his supporters pushed a reporter aside when asked for comment.

Neither of the men's lawyer's commented following the verdict.

Waipuka will be sentenced in February.

During their trial the Crown said both men were involved in the unprovoked attack on Mr Cottrell, punching and kicking him in the early hours of a Saturday morning as Mr Cottrell walked home from a night shift.

Waipuka's lawyer Paul Paino had said his client admitted punching Mr Cottrell once.

Robinson's lawyer Mike Antunovic said his client was across the other side of the road when the attack happened, and he had not delivered the fatal blow or encouraged the attack.

- APNZ

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