Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Protester who threw muck at Gerry Brownlee says Government has 'no compassion'

John Andrew Howland speaking outside Christchurch District Court today. Photo / Kurt Bayer
John Andrew Howland speaking outside Christchurch District Court today. Photo / Kurt Bayer

The man who today admitted throwing muck over Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee at a Christchurch earthquake five-year anniversary memorial service yesterday lost his teenage son in the disaster.

John Andrew Howland pleaded guilty to assault at Christchurch District Court today.

Mr Brownlee had an ice cream container filled with what he described as "pretty mucky stuff" tipped over his head at the service.

Gerry Brownlee has brown goo tipped on him during the memorial service for the 2011 earthquake victims. Photo / Maori Television
Gerry Brownlee has brown goo tipped on him during the memorial service for the 2011 earthquake victims. Photo / Maori Television

Howland's 14-year-old son Jayden Andrews-Howland was killed by falling masonry on a bus on Colombo Street. He was last seen boarding the No 3 bus into the Christchurch CBD shortly before the magnitude 6.3 quake on February 22, 2011, having been let out of school early due to a teacher-only afternoon.

Outside court, Howland said the Government was "just heartless... no compassion".

"They're not taking care of all the [quake] families - like us, and everybody else," he said. "There needs to be more support, more communication, and just compassion really."

He criticised Brownlee for not acknowledging the families at the memorial service. "He could've over and said something but he didn't, he walked right past."

Howland prepared the mixture of flour, egg, vinegar, salt, pepper, cocoa at home before driving to Christchurch on Saturday. He thought about throwing it over Prime Minister John Key instead of Brownlee. "If Brownlee wasn't there, I would've got Key," he said.

It would've been his son's 20th birthday today. "It's hard. It doesn't get any easier. Especially around birthdays and anniversaries," he said.

Police said that Howland's attack was pre-planned, with the unidentified brown sludge being prepared earlier in the week, police said.

He was sitting in the family members section at the memorial service held at the Botanic Gardens. "Sitting a short distance away in the dignitaries section was the victim, Gerry Brownlee," the police summary of facts said.

Killed in the quake: Jayden Andrews-Howland. Photo / Supplied
Killed in the quake: Jayden Andrews-Howland. Photo / Supplied

"As the victim got up to leave, the defendant walked up to him with an ice cream container containing a brown sludge that he had prepared earlier in the week. The defendant poured the sludge over the top of the victim in a planned attack."

Howland later told police that he "didn't like" Brownlee or the National Party.

Howland's lawyer told the court he wanted to participate in a restorative justice conference with Brownlee.

Judge Farish remanded him on continued bail for the meeting to take place ahead of sentencing on March 15.

Bail conditions include a non-association order with Brownlee - which will be relaxed to allow the restorative justice meeting - and for Howland to reside at his Greymouth home.

As the matter is now sub judice, Judge Farish advised him, and the media, not to conduct interviews before he is sentenced.

Labour leader Andrew Little said he was near Mr Brownlee at the time and believed the action was unacceptable. "I don't think it's ever acceptable to throw a sludgy mix over anybody, but this was a commemorative occasion and it isn't the time to take up whatever the issue was that the person was protesting about."

Family and friends at Jayden's funeral. Photo / Doug Sherring
Family and friends at Jayden's funeral. Photo / Doug Sherring

He said they were there in solidarity with the families who had lost loved ones in the quake five years ago and to reflect on that disaster. "I think it detracted from a solemn occasion, a fairly emotional service."

The attack comes after Steven Joyce had a novelty fake squeaky dildo thrown at him at Waitangi on February 5, but the woman who threw it was not charged.

Mr Brownlee told Newstalk ZB a man had tipped a two-litre ice cream container full of "pretty mucky stuff over my head". He did not want to speculate on what was in the container, but it "didn't smell too good."

He said it had taken him by surprise. "It was just a guy who just walked up at the end of the Memorial service and said' this is for you'."

- NZ Herald

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