Fatal stabbing: Rage, not self-defence, says judge

Wilson Wirihana told police he felt rage and “wanted to kill everyone” after an unprovoked assault by men who’d been told he beat up their aunty. File photo.

Moments after a car speeding towards Wilson Wirihana​ pinned his partner, he stabbed the driver in the throat.

Wirihana had already been struck with a shovel and pinned down and punched by a group of four men who “arrived for a fight” at a Bay of Plenty home on Christmas Eve 2020, a High Court judgment says.

He has now been jailed for four years and six months after a jury found him guilty of the manslaughter of Wipatene Mason​.

It’s a second strike offence for Wirihana, 37 – but Justice Rebecca Edwards decided to allow the chance of parole when she sentenced him at the High Court at Rotorua in late April.

The stabbing happened at Wirihana’s partner’s home, after a chain of events that started with her aunty taking a dislike to him.

“Words were exchanged” and the aunty left after a physical altercation with her niece, said sentencing remarks from the judge.

The aunty returned two hours later with four “hyped up and aggressive” men who’d been told Wirihana had beaten her up.

They rushed at him, “aggressive and unprovoked”, the judge noted, and there were gang overtones in comments.

Wirihana was pinned against a water tank and punched, and hit on the head with a shovel.

He bit the nose and ear of a man who tackled him as he escaped. “Part of that ear came off when that man was pulled off you by another relative.”

Wirihana ran into the house and re-emerged with a knife. The judge noted the men had “arrived for a fight” and it wasn’t over.

“You had just inflicted serious harm on one of them and you were outnumbered. They were not going to back down.”

A car “revved its engine and headed straight for you and your partner”, and she was briefly pinned between two vehicles, causing significant bruising to her thigh.

When the vehicle crashed after moving off, Wirihana stabbed the driver, Mason, leaving a six-centimetre-deep wound.

Mason died in hospital from blood loss two days later.

Wirihana told his partner: “I should have let them go. I was just trying to protect myself and protect you,” said the judge’s sentencing remarks.

He told police he felt rage and “wanted to kill everyone as a consequence of the beating you had received”.

Mason’s death had a devastating effect – particularly on his wife and daughter – as he was “much loved and a central figure” in the whānau, the judge noted.

But she acknowledged there was provocation for Wirihana, being outnumbered by men arriving “hyped up and aggressive” believing he’d “beaten up their aunty”.

“I accept that you feared for your life and that of your partner at the time the car came towards you.”

Yet the threat was no longer imminent when Wirihana stabbed the driver, the judge said. He wasn’t acting in self-defence but in rage.

The judge took a starting point of seven years for Wirihana’s sentence, adding an uplift for previous offending, but reductions for factors including witnessing years of abuse as a child, and his multiple head injuries.

Wirihana had good rehabilitation prospects and his partner seemed “an extremely positive influence”, the judge said.

“Your offending has put her in a very difficult position as she is related to the deceased’s whānau. Yet she continues to support you.”

Wirihana’s end sentence was four years and six months’ imprisonment, and he will be eligible for parole after serving a third of it.

-Stuff/Libby Wilson.

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