Family swear at judge as man who killed his best friend jailed

Author
Caroline Fleming, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Feb 2021, 1:46PM
Asha Carden Soole, 22, was sentenced in the High Court at Rotorua today. Photo / Andrew Warner
Asha Carden Soole, 22, was sentenced in the High Court at Rotorua today. Photo / Andrew Warner

Family swear at judge as man who killed his best friend jailed

Author
Caroline Fleming, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Feb 2021, 1:46PM

A man who killed his "best friend" after shooting him in the face at close range with a shotgun in a boastful demonstration has been jailed.

Asha Carden Soole, 22, was sentenced in the High Court at Rotorua today to two years and eight months in prison by Justice Geoffrey Venning.

In October, Carden Soole admitted killing Joshua Michael Louis Copestake, 22, on January 4, 2020, with an illegally obtained shotgun.

He was convicted of manslaughter and illegal possession of a firearm.

The judge also ordered the firearm be destroyed.

Some of Copestake's family members yelled and swore at the judge after the sentence was handed down.

Copestake was shot in Waihi Beach, across the road from a holiday park packed with campers.

The public gallery was full at Carden Soole's sentencing today.

As Carden Soole entered the dock, someone was heard saying "love you Ash".

Joshua Michael Louis Copestake, 22, was killed by Asha Carden Soole on January 4 last year. Photo / File
Joshua Michael Louis Copestake, 22, was killed by Asha Carden Soole on January 4 last year. Photo / File

Justice Venning told the court that Carden Soole needed to be sentenced as a "consequence of your stupid actions".

Copestake's death was a result of "stupidity", "negligence" and an act of "mistaken bravado", he said.

He said it was important to denounce this sort of conduct but also deter others from obtaining and keeping firearms without a licence.

"Incidents such as this are not as uncommon as you may think."

He told Carden Soole he knew he was "truly sorry" and "extremely remorseful".

He noted that the pair had been "the best of friends".

"There is nothing you can do to bring him back."

Justice Venning said Carden Soole was still a "young man" with "most of your life ahead of you" and he needed to live it in a way that would make Copestake proud.

Victim impact statements from Copestake's family members were read to the court.

Copestake's mother Katie des Forges described the "deep pain, emotion and grief" she experienced at the loss of her son.

"It was my job to keep him safe."

She said she was "so broken" to the point that she was "completely unfixable".

It particularly hurt her that she regarded Carden Soole as "her own" as she had promised his mother that she would care for him before she died.

She said anything could set off a "burst of uncontrollable crying" and she no longer socialised with her friends as it was hard to hear them talk about their children and the lives they are leading.

"My son's life is gone."

Copestake's father Nigel said the last thing his son had said to him the night of his death was that he loved him and he would see him tomorrow.

He said little did he know it would be the last time he would see his son on this earth.

"Everything I lived for, everything I loved was taken from me."

A friend who was at the address on the night of the shooting said she would never forget the sound of the bullet that "killed one of my best friends".

She recalled Carden Soole's face immediately after it happened that "said it all".

"The world stopped. I knew our lives had changed forever."

She said the image she saw was one that will "never leave my mind, body and soul".

She said she saw Copestake's face every night when she closed her eyes and hated sleeping now.

Some mornings, she said she was not sure she wanted to wake up.

Although she did not hate Carden Soole, she hated what he had done. She said she knew how much he was hurting too.

All the victim impact statements outlined the deep emotional impact, including depression and anxiety, that the Copestake's family had suffered after his death.

According to court documents, Carden Soole and Copestake, also 22, had been friends since childhood.

Carden Soole, who was 21 at the time of the shooting, was living with his girlfriend and a female boarder in Seaforth Rd, Waihi Beach.

In his bedroom, he kept a shotgun and two cartridges.

He did not have a firearms licence and had obtained the gun illegally on December 29, 2019.

On the night of the shooting, he went to bed with his partner about 9.15pm after dinner and drinks at a friend's place.

The boarder came home and told them Copestake - a mutual friend - was coming around for drinks, so they got up and watched TV.

Copestake arrived about 9.40pm and he and the boarder went to get takeaways before going to a shed at the back of the property to eat and start drinking.

Carden Soole got the gun from his bedroom, according to the documents.

"The defendant and the deceased spoke to each other through the open bedroom window."

The documents said the pair discussed another group of individuals in the town Carden Soole had recently had issues with.

"The defendant raised the shotgun, closed the breach and rested it on the window ledge.

"He boasted that if the group came to the house, he had the means to see them off.

"For effect, the defendant pulled the trigger, forgetting, and failing to check, if the shotgun was loaded.

"The deceased was standing close to the window and was shot in the mouth from a distance of between 45cm and 70cm.

"The shot was fatal and the deceased died instantly."

Neighbours, people camping across the road and Carden Soole's girlfriend called emergency services.

He cried out "I just shot my best friend" or words to that effect.

Carden Soole "made initial admissions to shooting his best friend" to police and witnesses, but later declined to be interviewed on legal advice.

He later admitted full responsibility for the shooting to the police.

"He stated he did not realise the shotgun was loaded and that he did not look down to check if it was loaded before he pulled the trigger."