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

Epsom motel murder: 'At the end of the day, justice was done' - Victim's brother

Two teens who beat and robbed a man in an Auckland motel have been found guilty of murder.

The jury returned its verdict on the charges this afternoon in the High Court at Auckland.

Beauen Daniel George Wallace-Loretz and Leonard Nattrass-Berquist, both 18, were each convicted of the murder of 54-year-old Ihaia Gillman-Harris as well as counts of aggravated robbery and dishonestly taking a vehicle.

Wallace-Loretz reacted angrily when the jury announced they had found him guilty of murder.

"F*** all youse. You're all s***," he said.

Family members of Ihaia Gillman-Harris leave the Auckland High Court after two teens were found guilty of his murder. Photo / Dean Purcell
Family members of Ihaia Gillman-Harris leave the Auckland High Court after two teens were found guilty of his murder. Photo / Dean Purcell



Nattrass-Berquist was the first to learn he had been found guilty and reacted by doubling over and holding his head in his hands.

Several family members of the defendants began crying and left the court after all verdicts had been read.

The victim's oldest brother Maungarangi Harris outside court said the trial had been "very painful".

"At the end of the day, justice was done," he said.

"It's been a long few weeks and we're glad it's over."

He said the close family, who sat through the entire trial, had a lot of healing to do over the coming weeks.

It is understood they were unaware of the full extent of Mr Gillman-Harris's lifestyle and Detective Senior Sergeant Andrew Fabish - officer in charge of the case - said it had been difficult for the family to deal with.

"It's been a trial with a lot of ups and downs for them but at the end of the day they've lost a brother, an uncle and a valued family member," he said.

"Ihaia had a private life and sadly for him that private life has come into the public arena."

Family members of the defendants, many in tears, left court immediately after the verdict.

Justice Kit Toogood convicted the teens on all charges and remanded them both in custody until sentencing on May 24.

The violent incident unfolded in an Epsom motel on the morning of December 27, 2014, after the victim had spent several hours driving the teenagers around the city and plying them with booze.

Crown prosecutor Mr Johnstone said while being driven, the defendants - then 17 years old - formed their plan via text message as they sat in the back seat.

Ihaia Gillman-Harris. Photo / Supplied
Ihaia Gillman-Harris. Photo / Supplied

Part of the exchange between the teens included the question: "G should we roll him??"

Mr Johnstone said some of the other text messages during this exchange suggested the severity of the assault that was going to take place, including the question: "Hospital?" And the answer: "Yea G allday (sic)".

"It's not a coincidence Mr Gillman-Harris was beaten and robbed; it was what these two planned to do," Mr Johnstone said.

The Crown suggested it was likely Wallace-Loretz and Nattrass-Berquist retrieved a weapon they had hidden in a bush some time during the night.

He referred to text messages that had the defendants discussing a "bat".

Mr Johnstone pointed to CCTV footage outside the motel, which he said showed one of the teenagers smuggling something sizeable into the room.

A pathologist told the court Mr Gillman-Harris suffered multiple skull fractures as a result of up to five blows to the head.

He later died in hospital.

The Crown accepted the victim had an "unhealthy interest in boys and young men" but urged the jury to concentrate on the evidence rather than being blinded by their own perceptions of morality.

Jurors accepted the prosecution's version of events and rejected the explanation of self-defence forwarded by the teens.

Nattrass-Berquist gave evidence that once in the motel room, Mr Gillman-Harris had shown him the beginning of a pornographic video on his laptop.

The 54-year-old then grabbed him around the throat while placing one hand on his groin, he told the court.

Nattrass-Berquist said the attack only stopped when Wallace-Loretz returned from the bathroom and struck the victim over the head twice with a bottle.

The jury rejected that explanation.

- NZ Herald

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