When Christopher Mana Manuel was released from prison in 2014, he was deemed to no longer be an undue risk to the public.

Just over two years later he was involved in a brutal beating on his wedding night that left another man dead. The violence included kicking the man and stomping on his head.

Manuel, 36, a Mongrel Mob gang member, this week pleaded guilty in the High Court at Whangarei to a charge of manslaughter - that had been downgraded from murder - and another of aggravated robbery in relation to the death of Lee Rata, in Kaitaia. Manuel's co-accused Lester Pairama, 17, also pleaded guilty to the manslaughter.

Manuel got married to his partner in Kaitaia on New Year's Eve, 2015, and his wedding attire consisted of a red Mongrel Mob vest over a T-shirt, a pair of red shorts and a black bum bag. He also wore a Nazi-style helmet.


He wore that attire for much of the day and evening when he was part of a group that chased and seriously assaulted Mr Rata after an argument on Bonnetts Rd in Kaitaia, about 120m down the road from the wedding venue. Manuel and Pairama will be sentenced on December 1.

Manuel is facing a long term of imprisonment for the manslaughter and the Northern Advocate can reveal that he was released from prison on parole in October 2014 after he was jailed in 2007 for nine years with a non-parole period of six years for his part in the brutal attack on two Dutch tourists in the Bay of Islands in November 2006.

Lee Rata, 35 was killed in Kaitaia on New Year's Eve. Photo / File
Lee Rata, 35 was killed in Kaitaia on New Year's Eve. Photo / File

Manuel pleaded guilty to two counts of kidnapping and aggravated robbery, being a party to rape and using a document after he and main offender Keith Anthony McEwen targeted the male and female tourists in their campervan at Haruru Falls in a brutal attack a High Court judge said was cruel and sadistic and had shattered the young couple's lives.

McEwen, the career criminal who masterminded the attack, was sentenced to preventive detention in July 2007, with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years, after pleading guilty go one charge of rape, five of sexual violation, two of kidnapping, two of aggravated robbery, and one each of attempted stupefaction and using a document.

McEwen was denied parole at his first parole hearing in August and will be back up for parole in August 2019.

Manuel was granted parole in October 2014, after a Parole Board hearing earlier that month. His sentence was due to end on November 22, 2015.

At the parole hearing the board said it was satisfied that Manuel's risk to the public is no longer undue.

He was released on October 22, 2014, with a list of release conditions - including to complete appropriate treatment/counselling (including parenting) to the satisfaction of his probation officer, if directed - until the board's legal oversight of him ended in November 2015.


Just over two years after being released Manuel led the attack on Mr Rata, after Mr Rata had earlier smashed a bottle in the road and got into a verbal altercation with Manuel's bride.

The summary of facts said several patched and prospective Mongrel Mob gang members from Kaitaia, Moerewa and Auckland attended Manuel's and his partner's marriage ceremony and stayed around for a reception in the evening.

Mr Rata left home wearing a leather vest with red strings down the side, a baseball cap, a dog chain wrapped around his torso, believed to be for self defence, and had a knife. He had been drinking during that afternoon and evening. He was not invited to the wedding but spoke to several people near the party venue and had earlier smashed a glass on the ground after a verbal argument with guests, including the bride.

Christopher Mana Manuel (right) with his co-offender, Keith Anthony McEwen, when they were sentenced in the High Court at Whangarei in 2007 over the brutal attack on two Dutch tourists.
Christopher Mana Manuel (right) with his co-offender, Keith Anthony McEwen, when they were sentenced in the High Court at Whangarei in 2007 over the brutal attack on two Dutch tourists.

A group, including Pairama and Manuel, chased Mr Rata and yelled at him to pick up the smashed bottle.

Manuel then struck Mr Rata with a closed fist two or three times before he was repeatedly kicked and stomped on as he lay on the ground.

One of the attackers used what police believed was a Nazi style metal helmet to strike Mr Rata around his head.

He died in Whangarei Hospital the next day after his life support was switched off.
When sentenced for the attack on the tourists Justice Tony Randerson said Manuel was remorseful and was not the main offender.

McEwen and Manuel were both dressed in reflective vests to look like policemen when they knocked on the door of the tourists' campervan about 10pm.

McEwen then produced a shotgun and held it under the man's chin and demanded money.

The couple were handcuffed and gagged and the woman was raped inside the campervan while Manuel guarded the man outside. McEwen told the man that if he did not give him the PIN to his bank account he would rape her again.

As the sentencing of the pair Justice Tony Randerson said McEwen - whom he described as a career criminal with more than 100 previous convictions - carefully planned the attack and obtained everything he needed to subdue the couple, including a shotgun, duct tape, reflective vests and plastic ties to use as handcuffs. He tried to force the woman to take sedatives before he sexually violated her.

The violation was "cruel and sadistic in the extreme".

During the horrific attack the pair took $3000 worth of property from the Dutch couple who had come to New Zealand on their honeymoon and hoped to become permanent residents.

"What should have been an exciting adventure touring New Zealand turned into a nightmare," Justice Randerson said.