19 Oct 2023

Sister of Sao Yean's killer 'equally culpable' when she helped clean up murder scene

7:48 pm on 19 October 2023

By Belinda Feek, Open Justice multimedia journalist, Waikato of NZ Herald

Sao Young's body was found on a rural property.

Sao Yean aka Sao Young was murdered over a fatal drug overdose he had nothing to do with. Photo: Police / Supplied

A woman who helped clean up the murder scene of Hamilton man Sao Yean has been jailed for her role in the crime.

Teretere Taniwha is now the last in a series of people jailed over the murder of Yean, also known as Sao Young, whose broken and battered body was found a month after he was last seen alive in March 2020.

Yean was beaten to death and his body dumped in a water trough on the outskirts of Hamilton during the early hours of 13 March.

His body was discovered by chance a month later, during the first Covid-19 lockdown, by a local farmer.

In September, Mihingarangi Tynneal Rameka, Daniel Payne, 35, and Neha Wiremu Grey, 40, were all jailed for at least 18 years for the slaying of Yean in Rameka's garage.

The beating they dealt the 40-year-old was so brutal his attackers asked for a speaker to be brought into the garage to drown out his screams with music.

By 6.15am, and after more than three hours, Yean was dead.

Grey and Anton Rite, who was jailed for 11 years, then took the body to a Gordonton property and dumped it in the water trough.

Taniwha, who is Rameka's half-sister, was charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder for helping Rameka clean up the bloodied shed, which included ripping up and disposing of the carpet.

She was also charged with injuring with intent to cause Dean Mihinui grievous bodily harm and wounding Jesse Whitiora with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and unlawful detention.

She pleaded guilty a week before the others went on trial in the High Court at Hamilton in May this year.

The day before Yean was taken Taniwha was in a vehicle that forced Mihinui's car off the road.

The occupants grabbed him, put him in their car, and drove him to Rameka's house where either she or Rameka used a baseball bat to attack him.

Whitiora was also taken to Rameka's house, held against his will, struck with the baseball bat, and tasered on the night of 12 March.

It all stemmed from the death of Black Power member Christopher Matatahi, who overdosed from drugs taken to his party by Rameka in Hamilton on New Year's Eve 2019.

Sao Yean, aka Sao Young, murder accused, from left Mihingarangi Tynneal Rameka, Anton Rite, Daniel Payne and Neha Grey in the High Court at Hamilton. Photos / Belinda Feek

From left Mihingarangi Tynneal Rameka, Anton Rite, Daniel Payne and Neha Grey in the High Court at Hamilton during their trial in May. Photo: NZ Herald / Belinda Feek

Rameka was given the drugs by a gang associate and was unaware they were laced with heroin.

Despite being the supplier of the drugs, Rameka, a heavily pregnant and paranoid drug dealer with Mongrel Mob affiliations, together with patched Black Power enforcer Payne, were seeking retribution for Matatahi's death.

Yean's downfall was that he was friends with Whitiora and was seen in a rival car.

'She was under the thumb'

Taniwha was an impressionable 18-year-old living with Rameka at the time and under her thumb when Matatahi died, the court heard.

"They got to his party, and she was under the thumb ... she was definitely under the influence of Ms Rameka who was a little older," Walsh said.

"Ms Rameka, to try and divert attention from herself, starts to spread the net around the local community and there's three individuals with various forms come under suspicion of what Ms Rameka is throwing out there."

Taniwha had got herself into a "position of chaos" at that time.

She had since changed, and matured significantly into a completely different person, after being bailed to live with her "profoundly disabled" brother whom she has cared for over the past two years.

"The change has been significant and the change has been real."

Walsh pushed for a home detention sentence, given her lack of previous criminal history and her positive prospects of rehabilitation.

"There is room and scope for hope."

Justice Grant Powell said Taniwha's involvement in Whitiora's assault wasn't clear.

Her co-offender, Manuao Kirkwood, was seen holding the bat and she was not, but Taniwha accepted she was there and a "party" to the assault.

However, she did take a more active role in the assault on Mihinui, the judge said.

Justice Powell accepted she was only a teenager at the time, at an age where it had been recognised that "young people are more inclined to make mistakes and wisdom and greater culpability comes with age and greater experience".

He accepted her prospects of rehabilitation were good and combined with background factors, deserved credit of 20 percent.

She had since been diagnosed with PTSD which would have accounted for her inability to stand up to Rameka, and she'd also shown insight and remorse into what happened.

However, after totalling 35 percent in discounts, that was as far as he could go.

Taniwha was jailed for two years and 11 months.

- This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald.