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Man who murdered his brother claims love triangle was not a motivator

Author
Ric Stevens,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 Dec 2023, 9:33PM
Peter James Te Maru has failed in his appeal against his murder conviction. Photo / Greg Bowker
Peter James Te Maru has failed in his appeal against his murder conviction. Photo / Greg Bowker

Man who murdered his brother claims love triangle was not a motivator

Author
Ric Stevens,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 Dec 2023, 9:33PM

A man who killed his brother with a butcher’s knife has failed to have his murder conviction overturned, following an appeal partly focused on the brothers’ relationships with the same woman.

Peter James Te Maru stabbed his brother Marino Te Maru to death after they had a fight in 2019. He was jailed for life with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years after being found guilty by a jury at a trial the following year.

Justice Sally Fitzgerald said when sentencing Peter in the High Court that tension between the pair was over personal matters and dated back years.

On February 10, 2019, a physical scuffle that started when the brothers were in a car escalated later at their Snells Beach home north of Auckland, with punches thrown by both.

Marino, 35, then picked up a concrete block and started smashing the windows of his younger brother’s car.

Peter, 33, went inside and grabbed a butcher’s knife, returning to stab Marino in the chest, causing an 11cm deep wound that pierced his heart.

Recently, Peter turned to the Court of Appeal to challenge his murder conviction on four grounds, one of which concerned the evidence given to the jury about a historical dispute between the brothers over a woman.

Another ground of appeal attempted to adduce further evidence from a British toxicologist, Sarah Tarrant-Wooding, about the level of alcohol in Peter’s blood.

In the judgment, dated November 28, the Court of Appeal justices declined to admit her evidence and said they were not satisfied it was substantially helpful.

Another ground of the appeal argued Justice Fitzgerald had caused a miscarriage of justice by not providing the jury with a more comprehensive direction on the recklessness of Peter’s actions.

The appeal justices found her directions on recklessness and intoxication were “unimpeachable”.

They also found no merit in a ground of appeal that argued that the prosecutor told the jury that Peter’s remorse and contrition following his brother’s death were irrelevant, and should be disregarded.

The Court of Appeal found the prosecutor did not make the statements attributed to her.

The remaining ground of appeal argued that evidence of the historical dispute between the Te Maru brothers was “gratuitous and irrelevant”, and should have been ruled inadmissible or made subject to clearer directions from the judge.

“We disagree with this submission,” the justices said.

The historical dispute between the brothers was relevant because it helped explain the escalating tensions between them on the night Marino died, they said.

It also helped explain why Marino was likely to have become angry when Peter said he had “looked after” Marino’s “missus”.

This was a reference to the fact that many years earlier, Peter had a relationship with Marino’s former partner.

“It was after that barb was uttered that Marino Te Maru started to use a concrete block to smash Peter Te Maru’s car.”

The appeal justices said very little had been made at the trial of the historic dispute between the brothers.

They dismissed the appeal against conviction.

Ric Stevens spent many years working for the former New Zealand Press Association news agency, including as a political reporter at Parliament, before holding senior positions at various daily newspapers. He joined NZME’s Open Justice team in 2022 and is based in Hawke’s Bay. His writing in the crime and justice sphere is informed by four years of front-line experience as a probation officer.

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