King 'sympathetic, passionate'

Lawyer Greg King, whose body was found in Wellington on Saturday,  leaves the High Court at Christchurch with Judith Ablett-Kerr during the 2009 trial of Clayton Weatherston. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Lawyer Greg King, whose body was found in Wellington on Saturday, leaves the High Court at Christchurch with Judith Ablett-Kerr during the 2009 trial of Clayton Weatherston. Photo by Craig Baxter.

The "personal side" of high-profile defence lawyer Greg King was humane, sensitive, and generous, murder victim Sophie Elliott's mother, Lesley, said yesterday.

Mr King's body was found in Dungarvan Rd, a cul-de-sac in the Wellington suburb of Newlands, on Saturday.

The 43-year-old, who studied law at the University of Otago, represented defendants in some of the country's most high-profile trials.

One of them was Clayton Weatherston, who in 2009 was convicted of Sophie Elliott's murder in Dunedin in January 2008.

Mrs Elliott said she was "absolutely shattered" by Mr King's death. While the family might not have appreciated Mr King's "tactics" during Weatherston's trial, the talented lawyer earned their admiration and respect.

His personal side was sympathetic, generous, passionate, and humane, she said.

She had attended justice forums at which Mr King was a lone voice on some issues.

He was prepared to be at odds with others, but the "great thing about him" was an ability to listen and engage.

Sophie's father, Gil Elliott, said Mr King was extremely intelligent, courteous and friendly.

"He admired Sophie; he told me that."

Dunedin Crown solicitor Robin Bates said he was saddened by Mr King's death.

They had appeared on opposing sides in cases, in which Mr King was a "fine advocate" who fought hard for his clients.

"Greg was one of those people who was straight up, and direct, and you knew where you stood with him ... his word was his bond in that regard."

Otago University Faculty of Law dean Prof Mark Henaghan spoke highly of his former student, whose career he followed with interest and pride.

Mr King had been subject to massive public vitriol for doing the crucial work of a defence lawyer, a role whose importance in the legal system was under-estimated by the public, Prof Henaghan said.

In this role, in which the lawyer is pitted against the vast resources of the state, Mr King was the "best of the best".

Mr King, who started law school in Dunedin in 1989, was a conscientious and questioning student who went on to an extraordinary career in which he was counsel in about 50 homicide cases, Prof Henaghan said.

He was unusual in taking some at his own expense, and remaining sensitive to victims while being an outstanding advocate for the accused.

A "positive and amazing person to deal with", Mr King was enthusiastic, pushed himself hard, and always responded to emails despite a huge workload.

His mentor, Dunedin lawyer Judith Ablett-Kerr QC, was distraught when contacted on Saturday.

"I'm absolutely devastated," she said. "He was like a son to me."

Law Society president Jonathan Temm said lawyers faced enormous pressure and that Mr King had been affected by public condemnation of the not guilty verdicts against Feilding farmer Ewen Macdonald, who was acquitted of killing his brother-in-law, Scott Guy, in July.

Mr Temm said the case took its toll in the form of public condemnation of Mr King.

"When you pick up a newspaper or turn on a radio and people are slagging off the outcome, that indirectly reflects on him, too," Mr Temm said.

Mr King was a "brilliant lawyer" who accepted unpopular cases, which took courage.

Mr King's website said he was admitted to the Bar in Dunedin in May 1993.

He set up his own practice, in Wellington, in 1996.

He is survived by his wife, Catherine Milnes-King, and daughters Pippa (5) and Millie (3).

 


Key defences

• Scott Watson (2003): Took an unsuccessful case to the Privy Council seeking leave to appeal against double convictions for murder.

• John Barlow (2008): Convicted of the murders of Wellington businessmen Gene Thomas and his son Eugene in 1995 after three trials. King's appeal to the Privy Council in 2008 was dismissed.

• Clayton Weatherston (2009): Second counsel to Judith Ablett-Kerr QC. Weatherston was found guilty of murdering Sophie Elliott.

• Virender Singh (2009): Successfully represented South Auckland liquor shop owner Virender Singh, cleared of assaulting with a hockey stick two men he believed were robbing his store.

• Ewen Macdonald (2012): Macdonald was cleared of the murder of brother-in-law Scott Guy.


- Additional reporting APNZ

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