A man whose body was found buried in a shallow grave months
after he disappeared was bashed with a taiaha, a court has
Hastings man Johnny Charles Wright, 50, disappeared on June
A tip-off led to a search of a rural property near Eskdale
two months later, where Mr Wright's body was discovered in a
Steven Tiwini Rakuraku, 39, who lost name suppression this
morning in the High Court at Napier, is on trial accused of
kidnapping and murdering Mr Wright.
This morning, Rakuraku fired his lawyer Russell Fairbrother
and is representing himself.
However, Justice Joe Williams appointed an amicus (friend of
the court), and to preserve the integrity of the trial Mr
Fairbrother will cross-examine the Crown witnesses instead of
Crown prosecutor Steve Manning told the jury that Mr Wright
was a "much loved son, uncle and brother" who had a family
that kept in contact with him regularly.
"[Johnny] was quiet, shy and someone who kept to himself
which made him particularly vulnerable and unable to stand up
to Mr Rakuraku."
He said Mr Wright had been taken against his will and
severely beaten as Rakuraku used the 50-year-old and his
finances to ensure his safety and freedom from police.
"[Rakuraku] controlled where he slept, what he ate, when he
ate, whether he exercised and when he went to the toilet."
He said when Mr Wright's body was found, a pathologist
determined he did not die a natural death.
Rakuraku used a taiaha to beat Mr Wright, which resulted in
some of his critical injuries, Mr Manning said.
He described one occasion when Mr Wright's father, who was
searching for his missing son, visited the Hastings flat
where he lived but was told by Rakuraku he was working then
"Johnny was in the house suffering from his injuries," Mr
He said that after Rakuraku killed Mr Wright he painted the
inside of the flat and wiped it down with bleach in a bid to
remove the traces of blood and evidence.
Rakuraku told the court the only reason he was defending
himself was because of a funding issue with his defence
The trial continues.
- By Sam Hurley of the Hawke's Bay Today