The South Auckland man who murdered his neighbour while
stealing to pay a drug debt has been labelled a
"manipulative, murderous leach to society".
Kaveinga Helotu Lavemai, 29, was sentenced to life
imprisonment with a minimum term of 17 years for murdering
Richard John Lees, who was 55, in October 2012.
Mr Lee's sister, Wellington nurse Gail Lees, read an
emotional victim impact statement about her brother "Richard
the lionheart" in the High Court at Auckland today.
She stared Lavemai in the eye and told him: "You are a
dangerous, manipulative, murderous leach to society."
Ms Lees remembered her brother as a kind man who had lived a
hard life, but retained a sense of compassion.
"Mr Lavemai, you brutally murdered a truly beautiful man, a
man who simply wished to live his days in peace, a man who
never took but only gave," Ms Lees said.
"Richard's life and love of life will live forever in our
hearts, whereas your heart is dead," she told Lavemai.
Ms Lees thanked the detectives who worked on the case, the
Crown and the Sensible Sentencing Trust for supporting her.
Mr Lees was struck about the head and neck about 11 times by
On October 12, 2012, Lavemai spent the day drinking and
possibly using P. He owed money over a drug debt so decided
to steal items from his neighbour's property, where Mr Lees
was staying temporarily.
That evening Lavemai knocked on Mr Lees' door. "He was polite
and invited you in. Without warning and without any
provocation on Mr Lees' part, you punched him almost
immediately," Justice Murray Gilbert told Lavemai.
The first blow landed Mr Lees on the couch and he soon lost
consciousness, but Lavemai kept punching.
He later told friends this gave him a thrill. "You said there
was a voice telling you, 'don't stop, just carry on'."
As Mr Lees was struggling for breath, Lavemai stole a
PlayStation and a stereo. He made no attempt to help the
dying man, who was found the next day by his friends.
"This murder was committed with a high level of brutality and
callousness," Justice Gilbert said.
Defence lawyer Kelly-Ann Stoikoff said Lavemai, who was
initially in denial about what he did, offered his "heartfelt
and sincere" apologies to Mr Lees' family.
"The truth is Mr Lavemai was scared to admit the reality,
even to himself. Since the guilty verdict Mr Lavemai has come
to accept not only the reality but the enormity of what he
Lavemai had only minor previous convictions, was undertaking
rehabilitation courses and had become his prison unit's union
A pre-sentence report said his mother died when he was young,
he had little contact with his father and along with his
siblings, moved between foster homes.
Lavemai was also convicted of theft for stealing the
- Jimmy Ellingham of APNZ