Father's anger over freeing of son's killer

By Carolyne Meng-Yee

Nathan Pukeroa has been remembered by his father as his "baby boy". Photo / Supplied
Nathan Pukeroa has been remembered by his father as his "baby boy". Photo / Supplied

The father of a man stabbed to death by his neighbour says he has lost his "baby boy" - and that the man responsible "got away" with the killing.

Dustin La Mont, 26, was last week found not guilty on a charge of murdering Nathan Pukeroa, 24, and of grievous wounding of Pukeroa's best friend, Devaray Junior Cole-Kuvarji.

In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Herald, Pukeroa's father Pute Taputu spoke of the devastating loss of his "baby boy" and his shock at the verdict.

"I thought bulls***, what were they thinking?," he said.

"[La Mont] is able to get on with life and my boy has been denied that. I hate him for what he's done. I want justice for my son - you can't go around stabbing people and get away scot-free."

A jury of eight men and four women found La Mont not guilty.

This week Taputu's daughter Makayla launched an on-line petition for a retrial.
But the Crown has no plans to appeal the verdict.

Steve Haszard, the Crown prosecutor who handled the case, said it was hard to see what the grounds would be for an appeal.

"Appealing from a factual finding from the jury is a very difficult thing to do but it's not impossible" he said.

"The issue for the jury to determine in this case was factually whether or not they were left with the reasonable possibility that [La Mont] was acting in self-defence, and they found presumably there was a reasonable possibility that he was."

A furious Taputu said: "We feel we can't sit here and do nothing. It doesn't feel right. We want to make as much noise as possible.

"We feel we've been robbed of our son - it's like Nathan's life meant nothing. But his death has left a big hole in our hearts".

He said he was haunted by his son's slaying.

Taputu said his youngest son was protective towards his family .

He grew up in Whangarei and left school at 15. He loved fishing and earned a diving qualification before starting a job as a scaffolder, which he was "passionate" about.

Pukeroa and Cole-Kuvarji were stabbed on December 3, 2015.

The incident happened after months of frustration between La Mont and neighbours of the Mt Albert home that he rented with his partner and a flatmate over rowdy parties and potential gang affiliations.

La Mont recorded the neighbours' movements, noted car registrations and filed multiple complaints to the police, noise and animal control and their respective landlords.

The frustration finally came to a head on December 3. After midnight, La Mont, angry at another noisy party, went outside with a utility knife.

His lawyers said he acted in self-defence and took swift action when he encountered two men who were bigger than him and allegedly threatening.

After killing Pukeroa, La Mont got rid of the knife, shaved off his beard and bleached his clothing.

Devaray Cole-Kujarvi told the Herald that he confronted La Mont about what he was doing and what was in his pocket.

"He looked suspicious. I suppose he sensed I looked at him suspiciously. My bro came over and asked him the same thing- he just launched at Nathan and stabbed him. I will never forget Nathan taking his last breath in my arms" he said.

Cole-Kujarvi is thankful to be alive.

"I was two centimetres away from death, I was lucky he missed my carotid".

The former Black Power gang member believes the verdict would have been different if he and Nathan were the ones in the dock.

"I mean the way we look, our tattoos, dark skin and size against him, a small white boy with no convictions - we would have said goodbye to our families for 20 years".

La Mont didn't want to comment but his lawyer issued a statement saying: "While relieved and grateful for the jury's careful consideration of the matter, Mr La Mont takes no joy from the verdicts. Though his actions were found to be legally justifiable, a life was lost, and this is something that Mr La Mont will always have to live with."

Cole-Kurvaji said he missed his mate's "sense of humour, wittiness and his love of life".

He added "I felt sad and infuriated - he [La Mont] took away a life that meant everything to me"

The father of two children said he had nothing to say to La Mont.

"It would enrage me. He should live with what he's done. He knows what he's done - he killed my bro".

- NZ Herald

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