Rob Kidd is a NZME. News Service court reporter based in Auckland.

Motel killing: Man was a predator, court told

Two 18-year-olds are charged with the murder of 54 year old Ihaia Gillman-Harris (pictured). Photo / Supplied
Two 18-year-olds are charged with the murder of 54 year old Ihaia Gillman-Harris (pictured). Photo / Supplied

A man who was killed in an Auckland motel by two teens was a predator intent on sexually assaulting them, a court has heard.

Beauen Daniel George Wallace-Loretz and Leonard Nattrass-Berquist, both 18, are before the High Court at Auckland charged with the murder of 54-year-old Ihaia Gillman-Harris.

The alleged beating took place in an Epsom motel in the morning of December 27, 2014, after the victim had driven the teenagers around the city and provided them with booze.

The Crown closed its case this morning saying text messages between the teenagers showed they planned to beat and rob the man.

Prosecutor David Johnstone told the jury the pair had used a bat to inflict fatal head injuries to Mr Gillman-Harris before taking cash, a credit card and the victim's Range Rover.

However, Nattrass-Berquist's lawyer Murray Gibson said the attack had only taken place in response to the man's sexual assault of his client, in which he said one hand was placed around his throat and one on his crotch.

The defence case is that Wallace-Loretz intervened, striking the victim with a bottle.
There was no bat taken into the room, the lawyer said.

"Sonny (Mr Gillman-Harris) has been at this game for [a long time] and he's very skilful at it. He manoeuvres and manipulates," Mr Gibson said.

"On December 27, Sonny's obsession almost was to get those boys into a motel.

"He's driving for five and a half hours, driving and talking, and the boys drinking. He's wearing them down. He's weakening their will."

The Crown accepted it was "questionable" behaviour for a middle-aged men to be plying young men with alcohol to entice them into sexual favours but stressed the jury was not there to make a moral judgement.

Mr Johnstone said there was no evidence pointing to the victim being a violent man; rather he was willing to pay for sex acts.

Mr Gillman-Harris earlier withdrew $400 from an ATM but Mr Gibson said that cash had been left in a bum bag under a seat in his car when the trio entered the motel.

And while giving evidence, Nattrass-Berquist said he had found the man's car keys hidden under a towel.

"Why would he do that, unless he had a guilty conscience about what he knew and intended to do in that motel?" Mr Gibson said.

"Sonny was never going to pay for that sexual advance."

The defence lawyer said the texts, during which his client and co-accused talked about robbing Mr Gillman-Harris and labelled him a "faggot", should not be taken literally.

"The thing about text messages is you don't have to confront the person face to face . . . that allows you to say things you wouldn't say or necessarily mean if you had to confront the person with that content," Mr Gibson said.

He described his client as a "non-violent, nice person".

Wallace-Loretz's lawyer John Kovacevich will close his case tomorrow morning before Justice Kit Toogood sums up.

- NZ Herald

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