12 Jul 2013

Life sentence for 'brutal' cold case killer

10:33 pm on 12 July 2013

The man who killed a Turangi service station attendant 34 years ago has been labelled as a callous and brutal killer and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Menzies Hallett was found guilty at a trial that could only happen after a law change allowed his former wife to give evidence against the 72-year-old, who had confessed to her hours after the killing.

Rodney Tahu.

Rodney Tahu. Photo: TAHU FAMILY

In May this year, a jury found him guilty of murdering Rodney Tahu on 16 August 1979.

The 31-year-old was shot in the shoulder after he refused to serve Hallett oil in the early hours of that morning because the service station had closed. Then, as he lay on the ground of the forecourt, Hallett stood over Mr Tahu and shot him in the head. He later died in hospital.

On Friday at the Rotorua High Court, Justice Duffy told Hallett that his attempt to try for the partial defence of provocation demonstrated his lack of remorse and insight into his offending, and was scathing of his actions.

"What occurred on the morning of 16 August 1979 was a callous, brutal, senseless and cowardly killing of a helpless, wounded man. A man who was a complete stranger to you and who had done nothing to harm you."

Justice Duffy said she was unable to impose a non-parole period, because the offending took place under an old law, but said Hallett would not be eligible for parole for 10 years under the Parole Act.

Crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch told the court that Hallett fired three shots at Rodney Tahu at the service station. The first missed, but the second hit him in the shoulder and Hallett then stood over him and fired the third shot. Mr Pilditch described it as an execution.

Mr Tahu's family packed the public gallery to see someone be held accountable for the loss of a much-loved husband, father and brother. His sister, Linda Rarere, spoke on behalf of the family and told of the shock of losing a family member in such a senseless and heartless way.

"It is a horror each one of us has lived and replayed over and over and over again. Our brother paid with his life and suffered the full brunt of the accused's brutal actions. For us, there was no relief in sight - until now."

Ms Rarere said Mr Tahu was the rock and glue that held the family together and they have endured the loss knowing that the person who killed her brother was living as a free man.

Defence lawyer Paul Mabey, QC, said that because of Menzies Hallett's age and health, the reality is that he can expect to die in jail.