Motel murderers guilty on all counts

Author
Rob Kidd, NZME,
Section
Crime,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 26 April 2016, 12:28p.m.
Leonard Nattrass-Berquist (left) and Beauen Wallace-Loretz and are found guilty on all counts (NZH).

*UNANIMOUS VERDICTS

Beauen Wallace-Loretz
:
Murder - GUILTY
Aggravated robbery - GUILTY
Dishonestly taking vehicle - GUILTY

Leonard Nattrass-Berquist
:
Murder - GUILTY
Aggravated robbery - GUILTY
Dishonestly taking vehicle - GUILTY

Two teens who beat and robbed a man in an Auckland motel have been found guilty of murder.

The jury returned its verdict on the charges this afternoon in the High Court at Auckland.

Beauen Daniel George Wallace-Loretz and Leonard Nattrass-Berquist, both 18, were each convicted of the murder of 54-year-old Ihaia Gillman-Harris as well as counts of aggravated robbery and dishonestly taking a vehicle.

LISTEN ABOVE: NZME's court reporter Rob Kidd speaks to Larry Williams about the verdict

The violent incident unfolded in an Epsom motel on the morning of December 27, 2014, after the victim had spent several hours driving the teenagers around the city and plying them with booze.

Crown prosecutor Mr Johnstone said while being driven, the defendants — then 17 years old — formed their plan via text message as they sat in the back seat.

Part of the exchange between the teens included the question: “G should we roll him??”

Mr Johnstone said some of the other text messages during this exchange suggested the severity of the assault that was going to take place, including the question: “Hospital?” And the answer: “Yea G all day (sic)”.

“It’s not a coincidence Mr Gillman-Harris was beaten and robbed; it was what these two planned to do,” Mr Johnstone said.

The Crown suggested it was likely Wallace-Loretz and Nattrass-Berquist retrieved a weapon they had hidden in a bush some time during the night.

He referred to text messages that had the defendants discussing a “bat”.

Mr Johnstone pointed to CCTV footage outside the motel, which he said showed one of the teenagers smuggling something sizeable into the room.

A pathologist told the court Mr Gillman-Harris suffered multiple skull fractures as a result of up to five blows to the head.

He later died in hospital.

The Crown accepted the victim had an “unhealthy interest in boys and young men” but urged the jury to concentrate on the evidence rather than being blinded by their own perceptions of morality.

Jurors accepted the prosecution’s version of events and rejected the explanation of self-defence forwarded by the teens.

Nattrass-Berquist gave evidence that once in the motel room, Mr Gillman-Harris had shown him the beginning of a pornographic video on his laptop.

The 54-year-old then grabbed him around the throat while placing one hand on his groin, he told the court.

Nattrass-Berquist said the attack only stopped when Wallace-Loretz returned from the bathroom and struck the victim over the head twice with a bottle.

The jury rejected that explanation.

The teenagers now face a mandatory term of life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years.

Wallace-Loretz reacted angrily when the jury announced they had found him guilty of murder.

"F*** all youse. You're all s***," he said.

Nattrass-Berquist was the first to learn he had been found guilty and reacted by doubling over and holding his head in his hands.

Several family members of the defendants began crying and left the court after all verdicts had been read.

Justice Kit Toogood convicted the teens on all charges and remanded them both in custody until sentencing on May 24.

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