A man who killed his friend with a punch and then buried him
in a shallow grave has had his jail term reduced on appeal.
James Grant Cooper was convicted of manslaughter and
attempting to pervert the course of justice after inflicting
a fatal blow to the side of his friend Javed Mills head, then
attempting to cover it up.
He then claimed Mr Mills' benefit and created a fictitious
social media account to fool friends into thinking the dead
man was still alive in Wellington.
Cooper was sentenced to four years and three months on the
manslaughter charge, and four years for perverting the course
of justice, to be served cumulatively.
According to a Court of Appeal judgement released today, in
early 2009 Cooper had invited his friend Javed Mills to live
in a shed on his parent's property as he had nowhere to live.
After becoming involved in a disagreement that turned
physical, Cooper punching Mr Mills twice in the head, and
then struck him in the head with his elbow. Mr Mills fell to
the floor and died.
Cooper then wrapped Mr Mills in bed covering and placed him
in a crawl space underneath the shed before he dug a shallow
grave in front of the shed and buried Mr Mills several days
He then used Mr Mill's bank card to withdraw the dead man's
benefit, and created a fictitious social media account
through which he communicated with Mr Mills' friends and
family to create the impression that he was alive and had
moved to Wellington.
A year later Cooper exhumed the body and placed the skeletal
remains, except for the skull, into a nearby wheelie bin. He
smashed the skull into pieces with a hammer.
The skeleton was discovered six to eight months later by
staff of a demolition company, after Cooper dumped the bin at
an unoccupied property.
Cooper appealed against his sentence, on the grounds that the
jail terms were manifestly excessive because the judge took
starting points that were too high, did not give adequate
discounts for good character, remorse, or to reflect the
totality of the offending.
Court of Appeal Justices Lynton Stevens, Patricia Courtney
and Graham Lang agreed that the starting point taken for both
charges was was too high.
However, they found there was no need for further adjustment
on the other grounds for appeal.
As a result Cooper's previous sentences were quashed, and
replaced with terms of three years, nine months' imprisonment
for manslaughter, and three years, six months' imprisonment
for perverting the course of justice, to be served