Gang members guilty of prospect's murder

Section
Crime,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 4 October 2017, 11:54AM
Two Auckland gang members accused of beating a young prospect to death in a bid to "harden him up" have been found guilty of murder.
Two Auckland gang members accused of beating a young prospect to death in a bid to "harden him up" have been found guilty of murder.

Two Auckland gang members accused of beating a young prospect to death in a bid to "harden him up" have been found guilty of murder.

Clayton Ratima, 24, was declared brain dead and died after being dropped off at Middlemore Hospital in February last year.

A jury on Wednesday found Tribesmen gang members Denis Solomon, 32, and Vincent Mana George, 33, both guilty of Mr Ratima's murder after two weeks of evidence.

The courtroom in the High Court at Auckland was otherwise silent as the verdicts were read, supporters in the public gallery simply shaking their heads and quietly crying.

"We love you, Mana," one said as the pair were led away.

During the trial, the Crown argued the pair attempted to coax prospective member Mr Ratima - who was manning the gate of the gang's Otara pad - to unsuccessfully fight an associate about 5am on a Sunday.

As the reluctant pair failed to land blows in a messy exchange, the two accused men grew frustrated and launched a savage attack on Mr Ratima, prosecutors said.

"They were determined to deal to Mr Ratima," Crown lawyer Natalie Walker told the jury, describing how others heard "swearing, yelling and sounds of scuffling".

At 190cm tall and weighing 130kg, Mr Ratima was an imposing figure.

But witnesses described him as a "gentle giant" and prosecutors said the two attackers knew that, as a prospect, he would never hit back.

Shortly after the beating, the pair went to a "gentlemen's club" in central Auckland, leaving others to take Mr Ratima to the emergency department with two fractures in his neck and a swollen brain.

Later, Solomon would ask younger gang members to take the rap for the killing, offering them a motorbike and cash, according to a statement by an associate to police.

But Solomon's lawyer, Shane Tait, attacked this testimony and that of many other gang associates in the trial.

The defence said a key witness, the man told to fight Mr Ratima, was very drunk at the time, and had initially not even mentioned the defendants to police - only changing his story later to protect himself.

The Crown had built its case on unreliable witnesses and fell well short of proving the men took part in the attack, George's lawyer, Adam Simperingham, told the jury.

Never having finished his first year of high school, Mr Ratima fell in with the Tribesmen while changing tyres for a living in Otara.

Members of the gang attended his funeral, leaving a patch on his coffin, to the dismay of family, Ms Walker told the court.

Solomon and George will be sentenced in November.

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