23 Sep 2019

Pair found guilty of murdering Auckland teen Dimetrius Pairama

6:08 pm on 23 September 2019

Warning: this story includes disturbing content.

Two people have been found guilty of murdering and torturing an Auckland teenager whose body was found in a drum at an abandoned house last year.

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Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Toko (Ashley) Shane Winter and Kerry Te Amo have been on trial in the High Court at Auckland for the past three weeks.

The pair murdered 17-year-old Dimetrius Pairama, whose body was found in a drum at an abandoned house in Mangere last July.

This afternoon, after deliberating for three and a half hours, the jury returned with unanimous guilty verdicts.

Miss Pairama's whanau, who have been in court for most of the trial, sat quietly in the public gallery as the verdicts were delivered.

Justice Brewer convicted Miss Winter and Mr Te Amo, who will next appear for sentencing on 5 November.

In summing up the case this morning, Justice Brewer told the jury they must reach their verdicts uninfluenced by prejudice or sympathy.

"It is not a court of morals. You task is not an emotional one. You must look at the evidence logically and rationally, putting aside any emotion."

The Crown's case

The Crown had argued the defendants worked together to hang Miss Pairama after subjecting her to a period of torture.

Miss Winter pleaded guilty to kidnapping at the trial's outset while Mr Te Amo entered a guilty plea in its third week.

The jury heard Miss Pairama met up with the defendants and two other teenagers in Auckland's CBD before crashing at the state house on 10 July.

Crown Solicitor at Manukau, Natalie Walker, said it was unclear why but at some point the defendants turned on Miss Pairama and took turns at beating her.

The 17-year-old was stripped naked, tied to a chair and burnt before being asked how she wanted to die, the court heard.

Much of what the Crown said happened in that house came from a young teenager who was there and has been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for giving truthful evidence.

Both sides of defence questioned the credibility of the immunity witness, who told the jury she tried to save Miss Pairama before falling asleep in another room of the house at the time of her death.

She said Miss Winter was the ringleader of the group; evidence echoed by Constable Riki Naera who turned up at the house during the period of alleged abuse on an unrelated inquiry.

The police officer, who was looking for a former tenant, said Miss Pairama opened the door looking teary before an older woman matching Miss Winter's description joined her.

He felt the older female was "the boss" of the house but eventually left the house after Miss Pairama refused his repeated offers of help, the court heard.

Ashley Winter's defence

Miss Winter, represented by Matthew Goodwin and Annabel Cresswell, had denied any role in Miss Pairama's death.

In a series of interviews with the police, the 29-year-old changed her story three times.

She initially claimed she had nothing to do with the death and had to helplessly watch her "sister" get hanged by Mr Te Amo; later admitting she helped beat and tie up the teenager.

Miss Winter said she punched and slapped Miss Pairama because she blamed her for a past assault and had heard the teenager was spreading rumours.

The Crown criticised her demeanor during the first interview; the jury having watched a police video repeatedly interrupted by the defendant dry retching and crying.

But her lawyer Ms Cresswell asked the police why she wasn't offered mental health support; her client having mentioned she needed to see someone several times in the interview.

In his closing address on Friday, Mr Goodwin said Miss Winter was far from the orchestrator of Miss Pairama's death but rather an outsider who barely knew others in the house.

He made a point of telling the jury his client was a trans woman and that this shouldn't count against her.

Kerry Te Amo's defence

One of Kerry Te Amo's lawyers Shane Tait told the jury Miss Winter's identity was an important factor in the case.

"In a trial involving assaults and violence it's important we appreciate that she's not in there slapping and hitting like a dainty fish; she's in there with big fists and the strength of a male."

Mr Te Amo also spoke to the police after Miss Pairama's death but said his only role was to cut Miss Pairama's body down and put it in a steel drum in the state house's backyard.

The jury has heard his DNA was found on one of several makeshift nooses in the house.

Mr Tait told the jury this wasn't the "slam dunk" the Crown suggested it was and his client, while he admitted kidnapping Miss Pairama, was not responsible for her murder.

This morning Justice Brewer told the jury suicide was not a factor they had to consider in the case; telling them they could set it aside as there was no legal basis for it.

"Your task is to decide what, if any part, each defendant had in Miss Pairama's death and in doing that to decide whether either or both have criminal responsibility as a result."

The jury of five women and seven men retired shortly after midday.