Found guilty of murdering cousin

Invercargill man Christopher Brown  buried his head into his chest and cried as he was found guilty of the murder of his cousin, 19-year-old Jack McAllister.

Brown (20), Laura Scheepers (19), Natasha Ruffell (27), David Wilson (20) and a 24-year-old woman with interim name suppression have been standing trial for the past five weeks, all facing a single charge of murdering Mr McAllister.

The jury in the High Court at Invercargill yesterday afternoon found Brown guilty of murder, and Scheepers guilty of manslaughter.

Ruffell, Wilson and the woman with name suppression were all found not guilty of  murder or manslaughter.

Scheepers began to cry as she was led away from the stand once the verdict was read.

At the news of her not-guilty verdict Ruffell looked at her family, who had been brought in to hear the decision, and  smiled tearfully at them before being led away. The family, through sobs, smiled back.

A tissue was handed to the woman with name suppression, who let out a small cry as her not-guilty verdict was read aloud.

Two other people, including Brayden Whiting-Roff, who the Crown alleged was the principal offender, had already pleaded guilty to murder.

Mr McAllister died from injuries suffered during an attack at Stadium Southland on June 7 last year.

None of the five receiving verdicts yesterday had been accused of physically causing McAllister’s death, but they were alleged to have been a party to it.

It was earlier alleged  Mr McAllister was lured to Stadium Southland by the promise of sex from a young woman. It was there he suffered 14 stab wounds, including one which severed a major artery.

Earlier yesterday, the trial had reconvened to discharge a member of the jury, the reasons for which were suppressed.

While each defendant was on a single charge of murder, the jury was asked to follow a question trail considering manslaughter as a lesser charge.

After the verdicts had been read, Justice Rachel Dunningham told the jury they had been on an "extraordinary journey".

"I know that a few weeks ago you must have felt like you walked through the looking glass," she said.

The jury had made "rational decisions" and worked "really hard" throughout the five weeks, she said.

"I’m going to do something which I don’t normally do.

"I would like to thank you personally later in the jury room if you wanted to stay on for a few minutes," she said.

sharon.reece@alliedpress.co.nz

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