There were sobs of relief from the public gallery today as a jury found Adrian Reginald George Phillips guilty of murdering father-of-one Bayden Williams.
The jury deliberated for just three hours before returning a unanimous verdict in the High Court at Hamilton after a five-week trial.
Before the verdict was delivered, Justice Melanie Harland cautioned those in the public gallery, saying any outbursts needed to be taken outside.
Phillips, 24, shot Williams three times on the night of August 5, 2020, after ramming his car off the Kopu-Hikuai Rd near Thames.
He showed little emotion as the verdict was read out.
Outside court, Williams' father Lance Williams said it had been very hard on the family to hear in great detail what happened to his son that night.
"But the guilty verdict is some sort of closure. Now we just wait for sentencing and hope that he [Phillips] gets the book thrown at him for what he's done."
Williams said it was hard to hear the defence discrediting Williams' "honour and character, but the truth's been told - that's what matters".
Phillips, from Ngatea, claimed he shot 20-year-old Williams in self-defence as Williams lunged at him.
But the Crown said Phillips was an angry, aggressive man who harboured a grudge against his former friend after Williams got the upper hand against him in a fight eight months earlier.
Phillips rammed Williams off the road after intercepting the Tairua man who was driving to Thames to meet his ex-girlfriend Chloe Randall and their baby son for dinner.
Phillips was in a relationship with Chloe's twin sister Macy Randall and was unhappy about the prospect of Chloe and Williams rekindling their relationship.
He wanted an apology from Williams who put him in a headlock and held him down while Macy and Chloe's father Peter Randall fought with Lance Williams on January 11 that year.
Crown prosecutor Jacinda Hamilton said Phillips felt "embarrassed, humiliated and emasculated" afterward and made a number of threats of violence against Williams on social media to friends, including the day before he shot him.
By early 2020, Phillips had a short fuse, was triggered to anger easily and was having daily rages, including at Macy.
The Crown said Phillips was seeing a psychologist for his mental health and had insight into his anger and knew how to avoid situations that triggered his temper, but ignored them.
Phillips illegally bought the sawn-off shotgun and ammunition in the weeks before the shooting.
He confronted Williams with the intention of frightening, intimidating and potentially hurting him, the Crown said, and needed a weapon to have the confidence to do it.
Hamilton said Phillips must have known that when he shot Williams in the head it would kill him and therefore it was intended. Phillips had already shot Williams in the thigh and shoulder.
Williams was crouching by his car down the bank with a gunshot wound to his leg when Phillips shot him in the left shoulder.
Hamilton said Phillips was the aggressor, not the other way around, and that Phillips' version of the event changed and this damaged his credibility.
Phillips claimed Williams was charging up the bank threatening: "I will cut you up, I will f***en kill you," when he froze then panicked and fired the gun in self-defence.
His defence counsel Ron Mansfield, QC, said Williams kept charging up the bank despite being shot twice, and that Phillips believed Williams was carrying a knife and would stab him.
Mansfield said Phillips acted in self-defence and out of fear for his life when he fired the fatal shot to the head.
He said Phillips was acutely mentally unwell at the time of the incident following a downward spiral after a traumatic accident in which Phillips set himself alight while pouring accelerant on a bonfire two years earlier.
Mansfield said Phillips was not an angry man, but rather a "very sick man" who was "disassociated" at the time.
Outside court Mansfield said it was a sad day for his client and a sad example of how people in the community who had mental health issues were not being identified and sufficiently treated when they needed it.
"It's a lack of resource and this crime would never have happened if the real issues he was suffering under had been identified and treated.
"…the fact that it led to something as tragic as this is just an unfortunate and sad indictment on our health system at the moment."