'You don't deserve to be given an out': Family heartbreak as three jailed for Hastings killing

Author
Hawkes Bay Today,
Publish Date
Thu, 11 Feb 2021, 12:59PM
Steven Kingi, left, Jessee Burns, a court security guard, and Stewart Hubbard in the dock at the High Court in Napier on Thursday. Photo / NZME
Steven Kingi, left, Jessee Burns, a court security guard, and Stewart Hubbard in the dock at the High Court in Napier on Thursday. Photo / NZME

'You don't deserve to be given an out': Family heartbreak as three jailed for Hastings killing

Author
Hawkes Bay Today,
Publish Date
Thu, 11 Feb 2021, 12:59PM

From planning a wedding to preparing for a funeral, the family members of a Philippine man who died after an Hastings attack to recover a sex-debt described their pain as the three men partly responsible for his death were sent to jail.

Thirty-three-year-old Jermaine Arias Ramos, a Phillipine national, was lured to a property in Ferguson St, Akina, on April 1, 2019, robbed of $640 and bashed by at least one of the men, including being struck on the head with a glass vase.

His attackers - Steven Matthew Kingi, 42, Stewart Hubbard, 29, and Jessee James Burns, 29 - appeared before Justice Francis Cooke in the High Court at Napier on Thursday morning for sentencing.

The trio pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter and aggravated robbery in November last year, after the charges were ammended to reflect medical experts advice that the injuries were among multiple factors in Ramos' death, including his use of methamphetamine and a heart condition.

Cooke sentenced Kingi to 4 years 2 months' jail, Burns to 4 years' jail and Hubbard to 3 years 10 months' jail, with no minimum period of imprisonment ordered.

Each will serve concurrent sentences of 3 years' jail on aggravated robbery charges.

The three, who have links to Black Power, confronted Ramos after Kingi was contacted by a woman and told Ramos had left a Havelock North motel without paying the full agreed price for sexual services during the night, in which she also provided him methamphetamine.

The woman was advised to invite Ramos over to her home with the promise of more drugs and possibly more sexual favours.

The trio entered the house while the woman was in another room and demanded money from the victim, who was then assaulted, including being bashed in the head with a glass vase.

They left and the women reentered the room to find Ramos on the floor, bleeding from the head - too scared to contact emergency services herself she had a friend do so but Ramos had died by the time the ambulance arrived.

Crown prosecutor Clayton Walker told the court the men acted as "enforcers", sent to recover what was a "relatively small amount of money".

Walker, reading parts of the victim impact statement from Ramos' fiancee and cousin, described the impact it had had on the family.

A cousin of Ramos', attending the sentencing from overseas via video link, said in the statement it had devastated the family.

"It was so painful because all the hopes and dreams and plans we talked about [...] are all gone," he said.

"His parents were excited to be coming over to New Zealand for the wedding of their first son, instead they came for a funeral."

The cousin also spoke of the trauma of identifying Ramos', whose face was described as "unrecognisable" after the "cruel and evil" beating.

"It's very devastating because he had so much potential but was never given a chance to show it."

The impact statement of Ramos' fiancee Gwendoline Barber, who has since died, described her difficulty to put the pain of his death into words.

"The thing you don't deserve is to be given an out for the pain you have caused me."

Barber had been shopping for their wedding when she got the call to let her know about the attack, with Ramos later buried in the tuxedo intended for his wedding, Justice Cooke said.

"There has been considerable loss felt by those close to Ramos," he said.

Kingi was represented by barrister Matthew Phelps, Hubbard by Eric Forster, and Burns by Leo Lafferty.

Forster acknowledged the presence of the victim's family as well as those supporting his client.

He said his client's apology would be "cold comfort" but should be recognised as a sign of his remorse.

He called for a sentence starting point of 5 years 5 months to 6 years 6 months jail, saying that the attack had had "disproportionate and unintended" consequences.

"No one of that group knew of Ramos' circumstance before."

Phelps likewise argued for a sentence starting point of 6 years, recognising Kingi's guilty plea and remorse.

He said his client didn't have a history of violent offending and had battled a methamphetamine addiction.

Burns' lawyer acknowledged there would be a "modest uplift" for previous violent offending, but said his client had showed a willingness to engage in rehabilitation.

Justice Cooke adopted a sentence starting point of between 6 years and 6 months and 7 years' jail, acknowledging the "serious" and "premediated" nature of the attack which was also linked to gang activities.

Kingi was held more culpable as the organiser, with a sentence starting point of 7 years' jail - Hubbard and Burns were initially given 6 years and 6 months.

Each received the full 25 per cent discount for entering guilty pleas as soon as the appropriate charges were laid, and each also received a 15 per cent discount for factors laid out in cultural reports.

Burns received a three month uplift for previous violent convictions.