McLaren Falls death: Man jailed for 13 years

4:35 pm on 6 September 2019

A man on life parole has been jailed for 13 years for the death of a man whose body was found at McLaren Falls in July last year.

 Mitchell Curtis Rehua Paterson.

Mitchell Paterson Photo: Facebook/Mitchell Paterson

Mitchell Paterson, 26, died after being held in a choke-hold in the back of a car in Hamilton in July.

His body was later thrown off a bridge into the McLaren Falls in Bay of Plenty.

Leon Wilson, 49, was earlier found guilty of the manslaughter and kidnapping of Mr Paterson.

Today he was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

A total of eight people were charged over the death - five of them pleaded guilty and three, including Wilson, were found guilty at trial.

Wilson is a former gang leader who is on life parole with previous convictions, including murder, rape and aggravated robbery.

The Crown said Wilson was the central figure in the death of Mr Paterson and that he posed a high risk of re-offending.

He was described as the ring leader behind the young father's death.

A former Nomads gang leader in Waikato, Wilson was convicted of murder in 1996, and since being released has been on life-parole.

Justice Davison described Wilson's reaction to the death of Mr Paterson as callous.

"You were clearly the driving force behind the vents that lead to Mr Paterson's abduction and subsequent death."

Justice Davison outlined Wilson's criminal past.

"Murder, sexual violation by rape, sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and aggravated robbery. You were released on parole in 2011, and since then you have accumulated four convictions for breach of standard or special release conditions."

Wilson ordered his associates to bring Mr Paterson to him after hearing reports he had been bad-mouthing him.

Crown Prosecutor Jacinda Foster said Wilson was the central figure in the death of Mr Paterson, and his criminal background ruled out any mitigating features.

He said Wilson demonstrated "a complete lack of insight in terms of his own role in this offending, who takes absolutely no responsibility for this death, and who presents a high risk of harm in the future".

Mr Paterson's family provided heartfelt victim impact statements.

His mother Valerie Paterson pointedly asked Wilson if he knew what he and others involved in her son's death had done to her family.

"Losing Mitch is taking us on the loneliest and most desolate journey that I believe any parent can take. Our loss is unnatural and challenges our emotions every day. It causes pain and we struggle with happiness in every way."

"Mitch was not only our only son, he was our only child," she said.

His father Craig Paterson made it plain what he thought of Wilson and the two others being sentenced with him.

"You three cowards have no idea what you have done to our family and close friends and I doubt you even care. You all chose to participate in a cowardly act that has brought us here today."

"You are all despicable and I despise all of you with every bone in my body."

Christopher Smith was jailed for 6 years for manslaughter and kidnapping, and Chloe Kerridge received a two year sentence for kidnapping and conspiring to defeat justice.

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