8 Feb 2024

Wellington High Court: Brawl erupts in public gallery at murder accused’s hearing, large police presence outside Parliament

11:05 am on 8 February 2024
Police responded to a brawl inside the Wellington High Court on the morning of Thursday, 8 February, 2024.

Police responded to a brawl inside the Wellington High Court on Thursday morning. Photo: Open Justice / Ethan Griffiths

A judge was forced to leave the courtroom and a defence lawyer told court security to "f**king arrest them all" during a brawl at the Wellington High Court on Thursday.

The scuffle only lasted 30 seconds before security broke it up, but not before a member of a murder victim's family attempted to scale the 2 metre perspex screen separating the courtroom from the public gallery.

Ten police cars, a police van, and two ambulances arrived outside the court, which is directly across the road from Parliament, shortly afterwards. One lane of Molesworth Street was closed.

Today was the first High Court appearance for three people charged in relation to the murder of Stokes Valley man Rawiri Wharerau.

Two are accused of his murder, while another is accused of being an accessory after the fact by feeding them and providing transport and telecommunications to enable them to avoid arrest.

All three defendants were granted a continuation of name suppression, which elicited groans from the family of the victim.

As one defendant was taken away at the end of the hearing, both sides of the public gallery began yelling at the man, leading to the scuffle.

One of the defence lawyers then called on the instigators to be arrested, saying "I knew this would happen" as she was led towards the holding cells to talk to her client.

A 33-year-old East Coast man and a 22-year-old Stokes Valley woman are jointly accused of murdering 39-year-old Wharerau on December 16 during a relative's 50th birthday party. They are also jointly accused of attempting to murder his brother, Hemi Wharerau, and unlawfully possessing a firearm.

The 22-year-old woman was also charged with assaulting Hemi Wharerau using a firearm as a weapon.

Rawiri Wharerau lived at the George St house where the shooting took place and was found by police lying at the front of his home, surrounded by people trying to resuscitate him. He died at the scene, while his 41-year-old brother was rushed to hospital in a critical condition.

Detective Inspector Haley Ryan earlier confirmed that Rawiri Wharerau was a patched member of Mangu Kaha - a gang associated with Black Power.

During the birthday celebration an incident had occurred and spilled out onto the street, leading to the shooting, Ryan said.

- This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald