Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Stabbing survivor: I felt my friend die, court told

Dustin La Mont appears in the Auckland High Court on murder charges. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Dustin La Mont appears in the Auckland High Court on murder charges. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The man who survived being allegedly stabbed by Dustin La Mont says he felt his best friend die, a court was told today.

And after Nathan Pukeroa was stabbed in the neck, Devaray-Junior Heremia Cole-Kuvarji said he didn't realise what had happened until he heard the blood gurgling from his mate's throat.

Cole-Kuvarji today detailed the last moments of his friend's life as he gave evidence during La Mont's trial at the High Court at Auckland for murder and wounding with intent to grievous bodily harm on December 2 in Mt Albert.

The witness said on the night of the attacks he was socialising at 21 Renton Rd where Pukeroa was staying with family.

The Crown alleges La Mont, who lived next door to that house, grew increasingly angry and frustrated at the property over the fence which was associated with the Mongrel Mob and the attacks were a "crescendo" of 21 months of complaints to police, noise control, Animal Control, Crimestoppers, his and their landlords.

However, La Mont's lawyer Kevin Brosnahan says his "skinny" client was acting in self defence to two bigger men threatening him at the end of a shadowy cul-de-sac.

La Mont told police the men said they were going to give him "a smashing" and in court today Brosnahan put to Cole-Kuvarji that a smashing wouldn't stop when someone fell to the ground.

"I would say it would, actually. We're not bullies," the 23-year-old replied from the witness box.

Brosnahan also questioned Cole-Kuvarji about discrepancies between his police statement and what he said in court, asking if he'd changed his account to "gild the lily" and to make it "better for you, better for the prosecution case".

Cole-Kuvarji replied that "maybe I'd re-worded it wrong" but said he didn't read his statement before testifying because he didn't want to sound like he was reciting off a piece of paper.

He also said some of the differences from what he told police in his hospital bed - including that he saw a long knife which he now says he did not see - was because of the medication.

Earlier, Cole-Kuvarji said that night in December, he'd gone outside to urinate when he noticed someone looking intently at the property which struck him as suspicious.

He followed the person out to the road with Pukeroa and saw him bent over at the end of the cul-de-sac. He told the court he asked the person: "What are you up to, bro?"

When he didn't get a response, he called twice from a distance "what's in your hands, what's in your pockets?". Once calmly and the second time with more force.

The man - later established to be La Mont - replied "nothing" and appeared "oddly calm".

Cole-Kuvarji said he didn't hear La Mont warn them he had a knife and said they didn't swing at him or threaten him by saying they knew he was working with the police.

When asked by Crown prosecutor Steve Haszard about whether La Mont was acting in self defence, he replied:

"Defence from what? ...There wasn't a time that he didn't have an exit."

Cole-Kuvarji said as they got closer and "got in striking range" La Mont swung at Pukeroa.

"It was like throwing a hook, a punch. He swung his arm out and hit Nathan in the neck."

Thinking his friend had been punched, Cole-Kuvarji said he leaned forward to swing at the man.

"The next thing I knew I'd been hit and he was running," he told the court.

Cole-Kuvarji then went to chase the man but when he turned back to check on his friend, he saw him stumbling and could hear him "gurgling, choking on his blood".

Then he slumped to the road never to get back up again.

He ran the 5m to Pukeroa and started wiping the blood coming from his mouth and nose and which was "pooling in his eyes".

"I put my hands around his neck ... my fingers sort of went into the cut underneath and that's when I knew he'd sort of been stabbed in some sort of way, or cut."

As he leaned over Pukeroa, knees around his ribs to try keep him on his side, he noticed blood was dripping down off him and felt a cut by his right ear.

He yelled out for someone to ring an ambulance and about the time they got there, he knew his friend was dead.

"You could probably call it a Maori thing or something but I felt him die, I knew he was gone."

Cole-Kuvarji then started to feel light-headed and went to lean against a tree. He remembers the ambulance arriving then the next thing he knew he was in the hospital being given an anaesthetic so he could go into surgery.

The next night, he discharged himself from hospital so he could be with Pukeroa's family in Whangarei and he didn't want to feel like the victim of the attack which killed his best friend.

"I just wanted to be back there for them, so they had a bit of answers from me."

Cole-Kuvarji still has a scar behind his right ear but said he was "okay".

Brosnahan asked whether Cole-Kuvarji hadn't been completely truthful about how drunk he'd been at the time of the incident.

He admitted "maybe not" after Brosnahan referred to an interview in which Cole-Kuvarji said "parts of the incident were really blurry".

"I had a buzz off the alcohol but I wouldn't say I was pretty drunk."

The Crown alleges after the attacks, La Mont set about covering up what he'd done by bleaching his clothes, disassembling the knife, shaving his beard then ditching items on his way to work the next day.

He also created a false alibi but was "painted into a corner" and eventually could no longer deny his involvement to police.

The trial continues.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 06 Dec 2016 09:25:47 Processing Time: 573ms