A man and the victim he stabbed in the heart shared tears, a hug, and a hongi in the Whanganui District Court yesterday.
Henry Lewis Haitana changed his not-guilty pleas to guilty when victim Taylor Brown was part way through giving evidence about a tussle that ended in Haitana stabbing a boning knife into Mr Brown's chest.
Mr Brown had to have emergency surgery for his heart and it was initially thought he might not survive.
Haitana pleaded guilty to one count of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and two counts of wounding with reckless disregard, ending the trial halfway through its second day. He earlier pleaded guilty to common assault.
After changing his pleas, Haitana faced the witness box where Mr Brown was standing and offered his apologies for the offending, which happened in Taihape on July 31, 2013. "Taylor, I wish to apologise to you, very much so for what went down," he said as Mr Brown stood with teary eyes.
Haitana hoped the guilty pleas could repair "a few things", including relationships between their families. "It wasn't your fault ... I hope you can accept my apology."
Mr Brown agreed, with a simple "any time, Henry".
The stabbing happened several days after Haitana punched his flatmate Christopher Haitana in the head. The house belonged to the victim's parents and was being shared with a third person, Sid Dalamere.
Haitana and Mr Dalamere were asked to move out, but on July 31 the victim came home with a group of shearing co-workers to find the pair still there, drinking. Arguments began, with one woman "mouthing off" at Haitana, Mr Brown said in evidence.
"It looked like he was actually going to attack her so I just came and grabbed him from behind and pulled him to the ground," he said as Crown prosecutor Harry Mallalieu questioned him.
Mr Brown and others held Haitana in a headlock until he stopped struggling. After they let him go, he headed towards the door, but pulled a knife, swung around and stabbed Mr Brown. In the rush to disarm Haitana, two more people were stabbed - Phillip Bennett was wounded in the back and Nesta Rupapere was injured in the buttock.
Haitana was wrestled to the ground and had his hands tied behind his back with a belt and rope. He also suffered injuries and was treated for them. Photos viewed by the jury showed a knife wound to the side of his neck, swollen and black eyes, and bruising around the face.
Mr Brown said he was the one who pushed the knife into Haitana's neck while trying to get the weapon off him, though he had not meant to.
Mr Dalamere told a slightly different story, saying about five people came in and immediately surrounded Haitana in a semi-circle, before yelling at him and throwing punches. He said they dragged Haitana into the hall, tied him up, dragged him outside and began kicking him.
Haitana, represented by defence lawyer Susan Hughes, gave his guilty pleas to Judge David Cameron and received convictions and a strike warning under the three-strike law. The case has been referred to Restorative Justice and sentencing will be held on August 24.
Judge Cameron told the jury people sometimes accepted responsibility when "confronted by compelling evidence" and said the Restorative Justice referral might help "heal the wounds, as it were".
As Mr Brown left the witness box, he told the judge the experience probably did him a favour and helped him appreciate the "little things" in life. "As far as I'm concerned this man's served his time," he said.
Haitana has been in custody since before the trial. On his way out, Mr Brown stopped to hug and hongi Haitana and the pair had tears in their eyes when they parted.
"Love you, man," Mr Brown said.