Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Dustin La Mont found not guilty of Mt Albert murder

Dustin La Mont faced charges of murder and intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Dustin La Mont faced charges of murder and intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Photo / Jason Oxenham

A jury has found Dustin La Mont not guilty of murder and wounding a man after he stabbed two men from a neighbour's noisy party.

After five hours of deliberations, the unanimous verdict was that the 26-year-old was not guilty of murdering Whangarei man Nathan Pukeroa and not guilty of wounding Pukeroa's friend Devaray Junior Cole-Kurvaji in Mt Albert in December last year.

When the verdict was read, La Mont stood quietly in the dock as Pukeroa's friends and family gasped.

Cole-Kurvaji got up and slammed the glass barrier of the dock with his hand before leaving the courtroom. Family swore at La Mont and woman called him a "murderer".

Justice Rebecca Williams thanked the jury for the service and told La Mont he was free to go as his family cried behind him in the dock.

During the two-week trial, the Crown alleged La Mont grew increasingly frustrated at his Renton Rd neighbours, said to be noisy and gang-related, in the 21 months leading up to the attacks.

He made surveillance videos of some of their movements, including hitting a punching bag in the back garden, and filing numerous complaints to the police, noise control, animal control as well as his and their landlords.

On the night of Wednesday December 3, the jury heard how during another loud gathering over the fence in the sleepout, La Mont went out to see what was going on armed with a knife and ultimately ended up stabbing the two men, then tried to hide his involvement.

His lawyers said La Mont acted in self-defence and took immediate action when faced by two men who were much bigger than him and said he acted in self defence.

Cole-Kurvaji said on the evening of the attacks, they were having some drinks and Cole-Kurvaji did a tattoo - later on he went outside to urinate when he saw a man looking intently at the property. He said it made him suspicious.

He and Pukeora went to see what the man, later determined to be La Mont, was doing when he swung at them with a knife, killing Puekroa and wounding Cole-Kurvaji.

The jury also watched La Mont's police interviews a week after the attacks.

In the first interview, he appeared calm and denied any part in the incident.

However, after spending a night with his girlfriend in a motel which had been bugged by police, La Mont confessed the next day to having stabbed the two men.

When a detective picked him up from the motel the following morning, the police officer asked La Mont, "Where is the knife?" and was told that it had been disassembled and disposed of in a Mt Albert walkway and in a skip outside the cafe where La Mont worked.

Later that morning, in a formal police interview shown to the jury, La Mont said he was cornered by two men at the end of his street, after he was seen looking down the driveway at the party next door.

He said he continued walking down the street and "hoped they'd leave me alone", but could see them staring at him.

They had then walked towards him, asking what he had been doing on the street and whether he was working for police, La Mont said.

"One, as I tried to walk past grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me back," he said. "It was quite intimidating because I'm quite a slim person and these were two rather large men."

He said the men had said something like "should we smash him cuz" and he had warned them that he had a knife in his pocket.

They then advanced towards him and one of them swung a punch, La Mont said. After that, all he could remember was the sound of his knife opening, feet thumping on asphalt and a light shining in his eyes when he ran away.

"I wish now that I had just jumped over a fence or run down someone's driveway or something like that," he said. "I'm sure I could've gotten away from them without having to fight them off, but I just panicked."

La Mont said he then washed his clothes with mould cleaner and left them to soak in a tub overnight, before speaking to a police officer who came to the door.

- NZ Herald

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