The sister of a murdered south Auckland man knew she had to
face her brother's killer to see what his features revealed.
He might have shed a tear and he certainly sniffed, but she
saw no remorse.
Richard John Lees' life ended violently in October 2012. He
was murdered by a neighbour looking to steal items to pay a
drug debt worth less than $100.
Mr Lees was punched about the head and neck 11 times by
Kaveinga Helotu Lavemai, 29, in a brutal and unprovoked
Lavemai was yesterday jailed for life, with a minimum
non-parole period of 17 years. In the High Court at Auckland,
Mr Lees' sister Gail Lees stood and stared straight at
Lavemai as she read an emotional victim impact statement that
called her brother's killer a "manipulative, murderous leech
After the sentencing, Ms Lees explained why she needed to
confront Lavemai head-on.
"I wanted him to look me in the eye. Throughout the trial I
couldn't see his face. I wanted to face him and see his face.
It tells me a lot - people's faces.
"There's no remorse in there. I hope that will come later."
The Wellington nurse was happy with the minimum term imposed,
saying "justice has been done". She was also grateful that
the law allows the most callous murderers, such as Lavemai,
no chance of being freed before they serve that 17-year term.
She hoped Lavemai, who will be in his mid-40s when he can be
released, would change, for the public's sake at least.
In court, Ms Lees told him: "You brutally murdered a truly
beautiful man, a man who simply wished to live his days in
The day he killed Mr Lees, Lavemai was drinking at home. He
might also have consumed methamphetamine.
He owed money over a drug debt and decided to rob the house
where Mr Lees lived in a sleepout.
In the 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 said this
gave him a thrill, while a voice told him: "Don't stop, just
As Mr Lees was struggling for breath, Lavemai stole a
PlayStation and a stereo. He made no attempt to help the
"This murder was committed with a high level of brutality and
callousness," Justice Gilbert said.
Defence lawyer Kelly-Ann Stoikoff offered Lavemai's
"heartfelt and sincere" apologies to Mr Lees' family, saying
her client now accepted the enormity of what he had done.
Lavemai had only minor previous convictions, but had a tough
upbringing, the court was told.
He will be eligible for parole in 2029.
"I'm glad we don't have to do this anymore, until the next
parole hearing," Ms Lees told APNZ. "It's a little while
- By Jimmy Ellingham of APNZ