12 Jul 2016

Murder-accused struck 'in anger' - prosecutor

6:31 am on 12 July 2016

The Crown prosecutor has held up the bloodied broken beer bottle to a High Court jury which he says was used by a teenager to murder a promising young rugby league player in a Grey Lynn street brawl.

Vincent Angene Skeen denies murdering Luke Tipene after a Halloween party in 2014 spilled out onto Great North Rd where a fight broke out.

Luke Tipene

Luke Tipene Photo: FACEBOOK

In his opening address at the High Court in Auckland yesterday, Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey said the original fight - possibly over a girl - involved two other young men.

Mr Dickey said Mr Tipene punched Mr Skeen hard, knocking him to the ground.

"The defendant, Skeen, was obviously upset by that, enraged by it. And you will hear that he then sets about retaliating - not with his fists as were the others but instead he finds a beer bottle which he breaks or smashes."

Mr Dickey said Mr Skeen then went after Mr Tipene.

"There are at least seven blows that leave wounds on Luke Tipene's body. Those blows are mostly aimed at the upper body - the head and neck."

One of them struck Mr Tipene in the neck, severing his jugular vein. It proved to be the fatal blow.

"The witnesses who saw this describe this as a round motion or a downwards motion, like a roundhouse. Others refer to it as being like hammering a nail - the blow that was inflicted to the throat of Luke Tipene."

Mr Dickey said Mr Skeen struck Mr Tipene in anger and humiliation.

He knew that by aiming at Mr Tipene's neck, he risked killing Mr Tipene, who died hours later in hospital despite the best efforts of paramedics and doctors.

But Mr Skeen's lawyer Lorraine Smith said her client was only 16 years old and had no intention to kill.

"I can tell you that Vincent Skeen does not dispute that his actions caused the death of Luke Tipene. This was a tragic death and Vincent does, and he must, accept the responsibility for his actions that night."

Mr Skeen was confronted by a bigger, older, stronger boy, she said.

"Vincent Skeen did something very foolish and I'm not going to try and gloss over it. Vincent took the neck of a broken bottle and he swung at Luke while he was holding the bottle and a number of witnesses will tell you there was only one blow with the bottle."

Had he struck Mr Tipene in the shoulder, arm or chest, there would be no murder trial but tragically, Mr Skeen hit Mr Tipene in the neck, Mrs Smith said.

If Mr Skeen was guilty of anything, it was manslaughter - not murder, she said.

The trial before Justice Peters and a jury is due to hear from 33 witnesses over the next two weeks.