Life terms for killers who made victim dig own grave

Alex Latimer was killed in Te Haroto last year. Photos: NZ Herald
Alex Latimer was killed in Te Haroto last year. Photos: NZ Herald

Warning: Contains graphic content

Two men have been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of 30-year-old Alex Latimer in September last year.

David James Lothian and James Taylor Martin Webby appeared in the High Court in Napier in front of Justice Robert Dobson on Monday morning, with the court's public gallery crowded.

Calls of "scum" were made as the two men were escorted out of court after the sentencing.

Latimer was murdered early on September 30, in the small settlement of Te Haroto, around 55km up the Napier-Taupo Road.

James Webby pleaded guilty to the murder of Alex Latimer.
James Webby pleaded guilty to the murder of Alex Latimer.
Lothian had pleaded guilty to murder, aggravated robbery, arson and reckless driving and received a minimum non-parole period of 20 years.

Webby, who had pleaded guilty to murder, aggravated robbery, arson and perverting the course of justice, received a minimum non-parole period of 17 years and nine months.

The summary of facts state the two offenders lured Latimer to the address, before beating him and telling him he had to dig his own grave.

Latimer was known to the offenders through their involvement with the Hawke's Bay drug world, but, had not been in contact with them since an aggravated robbery in January 2017.

On September 29, 2018, Lothian and Webby were at the Te Haroto address, with an acquaintance of both Lothian and Latimer, and Lothian's partner.

The acquaintance texted Latimer, asking him to come to the address and supply drugs.

When Latimer arrived, around 3am on September 30, he was unaware the offenders were present.

They attacked him, beating him around the head, before dragging him to the back of the property, where he was beaten with a shovel.

These blows caused the victim to go quiet.

The shovel was then thrown at the victim, and he was told to dig his own grave.

The offenders then dug a grave for Latimer, while he was in it.

David Lothian pleaded guilty to the murder of Alex Latimer.
David Lothian pleaded guilty to the murder of Alex Latimer.
Latimer was then stabbed, multiple times by Lothian, including one to the throat.

He was then buried in a second grave, dug near the first.

His body was found on October 6, 2018.

An autopsy confirmed Latimer died from stab wounds to the chest and abdomen.

Justice Dobson said the killing involved a high degree of brutality.

He said removing Latimer's clothes and moving his body between graves was callous, regardless at what point in the attack Latimer died.

He said the offenders may have only dealt with Latimer in the context of drug dealing, but he clearly had another life, one in which he was loved dearly by his family.

Latimer's sister-in-law, Megan Latimer, read an emotional victim impact statement, saying the night of the murder, the entire family had slept well, not knowing what was happening up the Napier-Taupo Road.

"Now I don't sleep well."

She said she naively thought something so "heinous and insidious" was only something her family would ever read about as opposed to experience.

She spoke about how her future children would never know their "Uncle Alex", and her happy memories of him had been ruined by the way in which he had died.

She told the offenders they had no idea how much Latimer was, is, and will continue to be loved.

Prosecutor Steve Manning described the murder as brutal, saying Latimer knew he was going to die well before it happened, and was forced to stand ankle deep in his own grave.

He said Webby's involvement was marginally less serious than Lothian.

He said Lothian led and directed the attack, but Webby went along with it.

Roger Philip, who appeared on behalf of Lothian, said he had acknowledged he was wrong.

He said Lothian had a difficult upbringing, which had perhaps moulded him to act in this way.

Leo Lafferty, who appeared on behalf of Webby, said Webby was not the leader, not the director, but was there, and did not deny that.

Lafferty noted he had pleaded guilty and that had showed an acknowledgement of wrong doing.

The two men pleaded guilty in September this year, just ahead of the case going to trial.

Detective Sergeant Darren Pritchard said the sentencing bought some degree of closure to the Latimer.

"Police are also happy with the outcome of today's sentencing. The death of Mr Latimer was a needless tragedy that will forever leave a void in his family."

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