Dustin La Mont trial: The surveillance, complaints and tweets that ended with a death

Dustin La Mont was acquitted of murder by a jury in the High Court at Auckland yesterday. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Dustin La Mont was acquitted of murder by a jury in the High Court at Auckland yesterday. Photo / Jason Oxenham

As his frustration grew, Dustin La Mont went to ever more extreme measures to get his noisy neighbours booted out of their state house.

It ended with Whangarei man Nathan Pukeroa bleeding to death on a street in Auckland's Mt Albert.

Yesterday, a jury in the High Court at Auckland acquitted La Mont of murder.

During the gripping two-week trial, the jury heard how the 26-year-old grew increasingly angry at the tenants of the Housing New Zealand property next door.

The tenants, described by the Crown as "no angels", often held loud parties, prompting La Mont's annoyance to grow over almost two years into "a state of anger and frustration", the Crown alleged.

And in the 10 months leading to Pukeroa's death, La Mont set about getting any evidence he could to use in the removal of his neighbours.

He made complaints to the police, noise control, animal control, and both his and his neighbour's landlords.

He took surveillance videos and photos of his neighbours' behaviour, including of them using a punching bag in their yard.

He did a "vast amount" of vehicle registration checks.

And he shared his frustrations on social media.

At one point La Mont tweeted: "Never have I been more provoked to go on a murderous rampage", the court was told.

On the night of December 2, before the fatal altercation took place, he tweeted: "Sounds like the mongrel shitf***s next door are having another party. Yipee."

He posted two more tweets before the Crown alleged La Mont went out to see what was going on, armed with a knife, and ultimately ended up stabbing 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.

After five hours of deliberations, the jury yesterday found La Mont not guilty of murdering Pukeroa and not guilty of wounding Pukeroa's friend Devaray Junior Cole-Kurvaji.

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.

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.

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 Pukeroa went to see what the man, later determined to be La Mont, was doing when he swung at them with a knife.

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, the court was told, 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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