Warning: This story contains graphic and violent content.

A teen girl who was at the house of horrors where Dimetrius Pairama was tortured and killed was declared unfit to take part in the trial after also being charged with her murder.

Today, New Zealand's second highest court has explained its decision - which over-ruled a High Court judge.

Ashley Winter and Kerry Te Amo were both found guilty by a jury on Monday of murdering the 17-year-old after a two-and-a-half-week trial in the High Court at Auckland.

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The duo kidnapped and tortured Pairama over several hours before eventually giving her the chilling choice of how she wanted to die - be stabbed or hung.

Her body was then dumped in a rusty steel drum and placed among some weeds, before she was found on July 8 last year by police searching the abandoned state house on Buckland Rd in Māngere.

A third person, just 16 at the time, was also there and was charged with kidnapping and murdering Pairama, the Herald first reported last August.

She, however, never faced a jury after the Court of Appeal quashed a High Court judgment finding her fit to stand trial.

Today the court's judges, Justices Patricia Courtney, Ailsa Duffy and Mark Woolford, released their reasons.

Dimetrius Pairama was found dead at a derelict house in July 2018. Photo / Supplied
Dimetrius Pairama was found dead at a derelict house in July 2018. Photo / Supplied

The accused teen, who is now 18 years old, is intellectually impaired and suffers from mild intellectual disability and foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

Despite this, Justice Mathew Downs initially found that while she was mentally impaired she was fit for trial.

"Though a teenager, [she] is in some ways child-like. For example, she understands what she reads as if she were eight-and-a-half," Justice Downs said in his decision.

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"She struggles to think abstractly; and is prone to distraction. She exhibits poor judgment, reasoning, and struggles to plan. Her memory is poor. [Her] vocabulary and language skills are those of a child. So too her comprehension.

"Unsurprisingly, [she] is dependent on adults to provide both structure and direction. But, [she] does not have a serious mental illness."

The judge said the teen "understands she and others are charged with murdering Ms
Pairama" and can identify what she allegedly did and what Winter and Te Amo did.

After hearing expert medical evidence, he ruled the teen could understand the charges she faced, was able to distinguish murder from manslaughter, was fit to plead, and could participate in the trial.

The teen's lawyer Maria Pecotic successfully argued a judge had failed to adequately consider the implications of foetal alcohol disorder on her client's fitness to stand trial. Photo / File
The teen's lawyer Maria Pecotic successfully argued a judge had failed to adequately consider the implications of foetal alcohol disorder on her client's fitness to stand trial. Photo / File

The finding, however, was challenged by the teen's lawyer Maria Pecotic.

She argued in the Court of Appeal, just days before the trial, that Justice Downs had failed to adequately consider the implications of FASD on her client's fitness to stand trial.

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But the Crown Solicitor at Manukau, Natalie Walker, said the teen's many statements to police, youth care workers and associates showed she was able to provide an account of what happened.

She added inconsistencies between them were explicable by the dynamics between the teen, Winter and Te Amo. Although some of the statements were obviously untrue, Walker argued, that in itself demonstrated the teen's capacity for reasoning.

But the day after the September 2 hearing, the Court of Appeal quashed Justice Downs' judgment before today releasing its written judgment.

"We see no error in the judge's conclusions that [the teen] could understand the charges against her, plead to them and that she understood the consequences of a plea," the appeal judges said.

"We see no error in the conclusion that [she] could sufficiently understand the trial process. However, we have reached a different view from the judge on the question of [her] ability to instruct her lawyers, meaningfully participate in the trial and to testify if she wished."

The Crown Solicitor at Manukau, Natalie Walker, argued the teen's statements showed she was able to provide an account of what had happened at the house. Photo / Sam Hurley
The Crown Solicitor at Manukau, Natalie Walker, argued the teen's statements showed she was able to provide an account of what had happened at the house. Photo / Sam Hurley

The Court of Appeal judges said their conclusion was "significantly driven by the nature of the trial itself".

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"Fitness to stand trial cannot be determined solely on the basis of an assessment of a defendant's deficits," their decision reads. "Rather, those deficits are to be considered in the context of the particular trial the defendant is facing."

The judges said the case involved the co-defendants running "cut-throat defences".

Throughout the trial, Winter and Te Amo blamed each other for killing Pairama.

Evidence also suggested the teen would struggle with 40 minutes of questioning, given that she struggled for that length of time with other activities, and did not understand some words typically used by adults.

Ashley Winter, aka Toko Shane Rei Winter, was found guilty of murdering a 17-year-old girl. Photo / Sam Hurley
Ashley Winter, aka Toko Shane Rei Winter, was found guilty of murdering a 17-year-old girl. Photo / Sam Hurley

"We were satisfied that [the teen's] various deficits would preclude her effectively participating in the trial, especially understanding the subtleties of the differing accounts that would inevitably be advanced in a cut-throat defence," the appeal judges ruled.

"We considered that, realistically, it would be beyond her capability to appreciate the implications of evidence she was hearing in order to instruct counsel.

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"We had no confidence that she could make an assessment of the competing factors necessary to decide whether to testify. We were not satisfied that, even with the support of [a] communication assistant and supervision of questions by the judge, [she] could give a sufficiently coherent account and respond to questioning to be able to testify.

"We therefore considered she was unfit to stand trial."

A disposition hearing for the teen will now be held in December, while Winter and Te Amo are due to be sentenced in November.

Kerry Te Amo will be sentenced for murdering Dimetrius Pairama later this year. Photo / Sam Hurley
Kerry Te Amo will be sentenced for murdering Dimetrius Pairama later this year. Photo / Sam Hurley