Atiliai Brown now wonders how she can ever explain to her daughter that her father was gunned down just days before she was born.

"No words can ever describe how I felt, or continually feel, since the 10th of March," she said.

Her husband, Arthur Brown, was murdered outside a group of shops on Vine St in Māngere at about 12.45am that early Autumn day.

Through tears and holding her baby daughter, she spoke to a packed and emotional courtroom in the High Court at Auckland this afternoon as the man who killed the love of her life was imprisoned for the rest of his.

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Semi Pilitati was sentenced to life imprisonment today for the murder of Arthur Brown. Photo / Dean Purcell
Semi Pilitati was sentenced to life imprisonment today for the murder of Arthur Brown. Photo / Dean Purcell

Semi Pilitati, 21, could have been ordered to serve his time without parole because it was his second strike offence, but Justice Ailsa Duffy said the killer had shown remorse and insight.

She instead gave him a non-parole period of 10 years.

During the hearing, Pilitati, who had pleaded guilty, turned to Atiliai and her family and said he was "deeply sorry for taking your loved one away from you".

"I know that an apology and a jail sentence will never be enough for the pain that I have caused."

On the night her husband was murdered, Atiliai remembered a still connected phone call with the 26-year-old, whom she had married just a few weeks earlier.

It was all the hope she had that somehow the man affectionately known as Afa was still breathing.

"Hoping he would say 'my wife'," Atiliai said. "I didn't want to end the phone call even though I had a feeling he wasn't on the other end."

She then made her way to Vine St - not far from her family home.

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"I recall standing at the scene just moments after hearing a gunshot," she said. "I was lost and felt my world had come to an end."

She was in complete disbelief, before her emotions turned to anger.

Arthur Brown married his wife Atiliai shortly before his murder. Photo / Supplied
Arthur Brown married his wife Atiliai shortly before his murder. Photo / Supplied

Just four days after her husband's murder she gave birth to their first child.

"All my daughter has of her father are stories, photos and the memories of his family and friends."

Now Atiliai said she is traumatised by flashbacks from the last time she heard his voice to the gunshots that rang out in the South Auckland neighbourhood "now in fear".

"If only I had known, I would have done everything possible to keep my husband alive."

Telling her mother-in-law, Lisa Brown, that she had lost her only son only added to Atiliai's grief.

"We had so many things planned to do together and for our future," Atiliai said, adding her happiness was ripped away because of an act of stupidity.

Arthur had been released from prison just nine months prior to his murder but was described as a family orientated person and gentle soul.

"What I once upon a time called home is now the place my husband took his last breaths," Atiliai said of Māngere. "I can never leave because it is my home."

Lisa said she was in such shock after learning of her son's death that she refused to believe what police were telling her.

"In my shock I thought that you were alive," she said in her victim impact statement. "The police officer said you had gone, I did not accept it."

She recalled driving to Vine St where her boy's body was still lying, but police said she couldn't see him because there was "too much blood".

"I often go to the shop where he died and put flowers there," Lisa said. "Arthur is always with me, I loved him very much, now I never stop crying."

Arthur (Afa) Brown was was fatally shot outside a group of shops on March 10. Photo / Supplied
Arthur (Afa) Brown was was fatally shot outside a group of shops on March 10. Photo / Supplied

The father-to-be was "so excited about his wife's pregnancy", Lisa said.

"They knew they were having a daughter ... My family have all been shattered by his death."

Eventually Arthur's daughter will want answers about what happened to her father, Lisa said, and she will have to tell her he was "brutally murdered".

Hate and bitterness now fills Lisa when she thinks of the man "who crept up behind my son and took his life".

"My pain will last until my last breath on this earth," she said, addressing the killer. "I will never forgive you for taking my son's life, never, you are evil and you do not deserve a good life ... I pray you suffer for your act of cowardice."

Arthur, however, knew his killer through mutual associates, court documents released to the Herald show.

While his murder appears to have been sparked by gang fears following an incident in January when Pilitati was attacked by "Red Army" gang members, the court heard today.

Pilitati suffered a head injury during the assault and "lived in fear" of further attack, while also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

He feared Arthur was a member of the "Red Army" gang.

While Pilitati denied any gang links himself he does have previous convictions from last year for robbery by assault and aggravated assault.

Counties Manukau Police investigate the murder of Arthur Brown on Vine St. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Counties Manukau Police investigate the murder of Arthur Brown on Vine St. Photo / Jason Oxenham

CCTV footage from the night of the shooting reveals Arthur was walking towards Pilitati's home on Vine St.

Pilitati told police he first saw Arthur outside his garage dressed in red and had a gut feeling something was going to happen - so he grabbed a loaded shotgun.

He claimed he heard Arthur on the phone saying, "they are drinking in the garage" and believed Arthur was planning with the "Red Army".

Pilitati later told police he shot Arthur to protect himself and his family but didn't intend to kill him.

Pilitati, his brother and a friend - armed with a machete and axe - left their home and walked towards a nearby bakery to confront Arthur.

At the shop the group and Arthur converged before Pilitati quickly fired two rounds at close range.

A post mortem examination found one bullet struck Arthur's left collar bone, fatally damaging his carotid artery and jugular vein.

When interviewed by police, Pilitati said he shot Arthur in the back before unloading another round when he turned around.

CCTV footage shows Pilitati, his brother and friend running back to their home just seven seconds after arriving at the bakery before fleeing to another house in a white Toyota van, court documents read.

Pilitati gave the murder weapon to another friend, who took it to a property in Otara where it was cleaned and stored.

Police later raided the property and found the shotgun - which had Arthur's blood on it and rounds matching those fired on the night of the murder.

Semi Pilitati said:
Semi Pilitati said: "There is nothing that I could say today or do in the future that could change or undo what's been done". Photo / Dean Purcell

Pilitati, who has two young children, told Arthur's family that "there is nothing that I could say today or do in the future that could change or undo what's been done".

"I am deeply sorry for taking you loved one away from you," he said. "Your son, your husband, your father, your brother, your nephew, your cousin, your friend."

Pilitati said he would accept Justice Duffy's sentence and "hope[s] to be forgiven for what I have done".

"I pray that one day you will find it in your hearts to forgive me."

Pilitati's lawyer Panama Le'Au'Anae was also emotional during today's hearing and spoke of the gun violence which has plagued South Auckland this year.

"I don't think that there is anything he or I could say to bring back this young man," he said.

"It is a senseless killing, but there is a background to it, nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Why we have to resort to this type of violence is beyond me."