Four men will be tried by a jury after maintaining not guilty pleas in relation to a charge of interfering with a dead body.

Jason Lines died when his fishing dinghy capsized crossing the Bowentown Bar, south of Waihi Beach, on November 20. He was buried at a Rotorua urupa. Two people survived the capsize and Lines' body washed ashore seven days later.

Maurice Ututaonga, 21; Sebastien Wineera, 22; Rhys James Phillips, a forest worker, 25; Ryan Rawiri Lingman, a fencer, 25; and Shannon Shiloh Apirana, 28; all from Rotorua, are charged with improperly interfering with Lines' remains on December 2. They appeared in Rotorua District Court this morning for a case review hearing.

Lawyer Jonathan Temm, representing Ututaonga, told the court a diversion had been offered by police to his client.


Accordingly, a guilty plea was entered to the charge on behalf of Ututaonga, though no conviction was entered.

He was remanded on bail to reappear on April 4.

The remaining four maintained their not guilty pleas, electing a trial by jury.

Judge Tony Snell remanded the men to reappear in Rotorua District Court on May 2 for a trial callover.

Another man, Tiger Ross, 18, who is also charged with the same offence, is to appear in the Rotorua Registrar's Court on March 7.

Two teenagers charged in tandem with the adults have now been dealt with in the youth and rangatahi (marae) courts, and their charges subsequently withdrawn.