The family of a Kaitaia man stabbed by a neighbour has slammed the killer's sentence of five years and nine months in jail as "too light".

Paul Edward Harris, 51, stabbed Joseph Rowland Keogh and left him to die like a "stuck pig", Keogh's family said at yesterday's sentencing at Whangarei High Court. The family hurled a stream of expletives at Harris during the proceedings.

Midway through his jury trial for murder last month Harris pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of manslaughter, which carries a maximum term of life in prison.

Keogh, 29, was shooting possums with his two sons and two sisters on Fisher-Riley Rd, near Kaitaia, on the evening of April 11 last year, when he was confronted by Harris.


Harris tried to wrestle an air rifle off Keogh then stabbed him through his heart. He then tried to run him over with his quadbike. The knife used in the attack has never been recovered.

Keogh's 10-year-old son drove the 4WD vehicle home with his fatally injured father, who was rushed to Kaitaia Hospital where he later died.

In sentencing, Justice Faire said Harris stabbed Keogh in front of four children who not only witnessed the attack but were forced to try to save their father's life. Justice Faire said the attack was something no young person should have to go through.

"They truly have suffered a great loss," he said.

Keogh's family, including his parents Morag and Rowland Keogh, read victim impact statements while directly facing their son's killer.

Morag Keogh said Harris' claim of self defence was weak.

"As a farmer and a pig hunter, you knew exactly where to stab him. You showed no mercy. You left him to die like a stuck pig.

"In my heart, you took a life and you should be serving life," she said.


Rowland Keogh stormed out of court while Justice John Faire delivered his sentencing remarks.

Morag Keogh later told the media her family thought the five years and nine months imposed on Harris was "too light" and the family was "extremely unhappy" with the sentence.

They thanked people for their support and said the focus would now be on Joseph Keogh's four children and his two sisters.