25 Apr 2024

Manslaughter guilty plea for fatal fight over messy kitchen

7:55 pm on 25 April 2024

By Belinda Feek, Open Justice multimedia journalist of NZ Herald

Hamilton District Court

Bailey Ecclestone has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the High Court at Hamilton, after a fatal fight was sparked by a messy communal kitchen. Photo: RNZ

A man who tried to break up a fight over a messy kitchen ended up being fatally stabbed in the neck, while another man was stabbed in the shoulder.

Matthew Williams died and Joseph Pitcaithly was seriously injured in the bloody row on 7 February last year at a shared accommodation run by the Community Living Trust on Clyde Street in Hamilton.

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Photo: Open Justice

Bailey Ecclestone, of Hamilton, was charged with murder and injuring with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, which he planned to defend at a trial scheduled to begin on Monday.

But on Friday, the 22-year-old appeared in the High Court at Hamilton and entered a guilty plea to a reduced charge of manslaughter. The murder charge was withdrawn and he also admitted the wounding charge in relation to Pitcaithly.

Details about Williams' death can now be revealed.

According to the Crown's summary of facts, the trust is an organisation that helps adults with additional needs or intellectual disabilities to live in the community.

Support workers live in the residence on 24-hour shifts, with different support workers rostered during the week.

Ecclestone, who has autism and difficulties in social settings, was playing PlayStation in his room when Pitcaithly knocked on his door and confronted him about making a mess in the communal kitchen and for getting a knife stuck in the sink.

He denied the accusations and the pair became embroiled in a loud and heated argument.

Insults were traded until Pitcaithly picked up a plate from the floor and threw it at Ecclestone.

Ecclestone picked up a wooden-handled knife with a serrated blade from the floor of his room and threatened to cut Pitcaithly's neck open.

Pitcaithly replied with words to the effect of "go ahead and do it".

Williams, who was there visiting a friend, heard the commotion and ran upstairs to intervene.

Despite standing in between the pair and trying to defuse the situation, Ecclestone swung his knife over Williams and stabbed Pitcaithly on the top of his right shoulder.

Williams remained standing where he was as Ecclestone swung the knife again.

This time he struck Williams in the neck.

Williams grabbed his neck which was "bleeding profusely", according to the summary, and walked downstairs to ask for help.

He repeatedly said he had been stabbed and to call an ambulance before collapsing on the floor in the kitchen.

Other residents rushed to his aid and tried to staunch the heavy bleeding, as emergency services were called.

Williams died of his 7cm deep stab wound in Waikato Hospital two days later.

Meanwhile, Eccleston locked himself in his room and waited for police.

He told them he had acted in self-defence, and acknowledged stabbing both men.

In court, Justice Michael Robinson convicted Ecclestone of the charges and remanded him back into custody ahead of sentencing next month.

- This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald.

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