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

Luke Tipene murder trial: Witnesses say victim was backing away from brawl

The street where Luke Tipene was stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle.  Photo / Doug Sherring
The street where Luke Tipene was stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle. Photo / Doug Sherring

Two men who watched a fight that left a budding rugby league star dead say the victim was backing away from the brawl with his hands up.

Vincent Angene Skeen, 18, is on trial accused of the murder of 17-year-old Luke Tipene in the early hours of November 1, 2014.

The Crown case is that their respective friends initially fought before the victim and defendant squared off.

Witnesses say they saw 17-year-old Luke Tipene backing away from his attacker. Photo / Facebook
Witnesses say they saw 17-year-old Luke Tipene backing away from his attacker. Photo / Facebook

It is alleged Tipene punched Skeen, knocking him down, but the murder accused sought revenge, smashing a bottle and using the jagged shard to stab the teen in the neck.

Mark Robertson, a resident of the Grey Lynn apartment building outside which the street brawl took place, said they heard a ruckus just after midnight and went out on to the balcony to investigate.

He told the court there seemed to be hundreds of young people flooding Great North Rd but his eye was drawn to two of them who appeared to be preparing to fight - Skeen and Tipene.

"[Tipene] looked like he knew how to fight but what he was actually doing was... backing away from the fight. The other guy seemed to be going for him," Robertson said.

Allen Winton, who was also out on the balcony, said the dynamics of the scuffle were clear.

"The taller guy was trying to defend himself, the shorter guy was very aggressive... clearly he wanted to do harm," he told the jury.

"The shorter guy was charging towards the taller guy with his arms swinging in a roundhouse sort of motion and the taller guy was backing up with his hands up in the air, retreating back."

Neither witness saw a blow connect with Tipene.

Winton said his view was obscured as the duo went behind a tree beside the road.

But when they became visible again he saw "the taller guy clasping at his neck and I can see blood starting to drip down his arm and chest".

He collapsed and all hell broke loose. It was horrible. I was terrified, to be honest.
Mark Robertson, witness

Winton told the court he saw Tipene collapse, get back to his feet momentarily, before falling down again as blood pooled around him.

"He collapsed and all hell broke loose. It was horrible," Robertson said. "I was terrified, to be honest."

Earlier today, Dominic Bellfield told the court how he had spent the evening driving round town with Skeen and two other friends but he lost sight of the defendant when they arrived in Grey Lynn and fights broke out.

"People started running away so I assumed someone had got hurt... so I ran as well and hopped into my car," the witness said.

While he pulled a u-turn to leave the scene Skeen jumped in too.

"He kept just saying: 's***, f***, all that stuff'," Bellfield told the jury.

When questioned by Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey, the witness said he heard Skeen say "I caked it", meaning he had "messed up", he clarified.

Bellfield said Skeen was not bragging.

He was "definitely upset, quite flustered as well," Bellfield said.

Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey told the jury a pathologist would give evidence that there were at least seven blows to Tipene, one of which caused a 12cm wound, which stopped just short of Tipene's spine and pierced his jugular vein.

He died in hospital four hours later.

Defence counsel Lorraine Smith said her client - who was 16 at the time - may be guilty of manslaughter but lacked the requisite intent to be convicted of the more serious charge.

The trial continues.

- NZ Herald

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