Half asleep, angry and with up to 20 beers in his system, Broc Kawhena sped off down an Otorohanga street.

He'd been at a party with his partner. He'd crashed out but she woke him, wanting him to take her home. Kawhena, 22, made the fateful decision to relent.

At the same time, on April 3, last year, 17-year-old Ocean Heke was walking home to her father's house along State Highway 3.

Kawhena hit her with his vehicle, killing her instantly, before fleeing.


Kawhena appeared for sentencing in the High Court at Hamilton today where Justice Christine Gordon sentenced him to four years' jail.

Broc Kawhena was sentenced to four years jail. Photo / Belinda Feek
Broc Kawhena was sentenced to four years jail. Photo / Belinda Feek

Heke's mother, Bella Tupou, choked back tears as she told the court how much she had struggled since losing, her happy, sporty and popular fifth-youngest daughter.

"I think about her every second of every day. Time hasn't made it any easier to accept her passing ... it's hard to watch her siblings grow without her because we are a very close family. Her younger sisters always cry for her and ask questions of why did [Kawhena] do that?"

Tupou said she's always crying, she'll be at work and spontaneously cry but doesn't like to let on why.

She still pictures her daughter lying a cold, lonely death on the side of the road and it tears her apart.

"It kills me ... there were two people in the car that hit Ocean and not one of them tried to help her."

Tupou said she had been left with an emptiness since her daughter was killed, a death the family had struggled to come to terms with, especially as Kawhena still denied being the driver.

"You told everyone that it was someone else, even when I asked you ... we don't know if she died instantly. We will never really know."


Justice Gordon noted comments in Kawhena's pre sentence report that he only pleaded guilty, not out of remorse, rather because the court process was taking so long.

It was standing room only in the public gallery - packed with whanau of both families - as the circumstances of the night were read out in court, while extra police were in attendance in case there were any flare-ups.

After crashing into a parked car and knocking the car's front bumper off, Kawhena suddenly ploughed the unwarranted and unregistered Honda Accord into Heke from behind when turning to look at his partner and carry on arguing.

He mounted the kerb, her body hit the front windscreen before she was thrown 10m through the air into a brick pillar and wooden fence.

Her injuries were "catastrophic" and she died alone on the side of the road.

Instead of stopping, Kawhena sped off again mounting the kerb and crashing into and through a steel fence outside a trucking firm's property.

Kawhena and his partner got out of the car, left it behind, and walked to a relative's house nearby.

Heke's body was eventually found about 6.30am by a group of people walking home from the same party.

When spoken to by police, Kawhena told them he was not aware he had hit a person with his car.

He continues to deny being the driver, an issue the judge found "troubling".

Kawhena was originally charged with manslaughter and causing death while in charge of a motor vehicle, which has a 10 year maximum prison sentence.

However, at the earlier sentence indication hearing, the crown proposed it be withdrawn at today's sentencing.

Justice Gordon said an application for reparation of the business' damaged fence was fruitless as Kawhena would spend the next four years behind bars.