Double-murder: Man‘s conviction appeal fails

Police at the scene of the shooting in 2020. File photo and video.

A convicted double-murderer jailed for 17 years for his role in a deadly drama that involved a crossbow killing, police shoot out and four deaths in total has failed in a bid to appeal his conviction and sentence.

Samuel Dean Fane was jailed in July 2021 at the High Court in Rotorua in what was the final chapter saga that saw among those killed, Fane's brother Anthony Fane, who died in a hail of 49 bullets fired by police after a pursuit through residential streets in Tauranga.

Before his death police say Anthony Fane had used a crossbow to murder his partner Jessielee Booth over his belief she had been having an affair.

That belief was also the catalyst for the next two murders, as he believed it was with Paul Lasslett​ .

Samuel Fane was sentenced after a jury found him guilty of the killing of Lasslett, 43, and Nick Littlewood, 32, in Omanawa on February 11, 2020.

In a written ruling from the Court of Appeal, the court said Fane launched his appeal 'on the basis the evidence was insufficient to prove he was a party to the murders of two men”.

He also claimed the trial judge 'materially misdirected the jury on the law” and did not fairly put the defence case as it related to the murder of Lasslett.

On February 9, 2020, Fane's brother Anthony Fane killed his partner Jessie-Lee Booth at their Tauranga home. He believed she has been conducting an affair with Lasslett.

On February 11, both brothers travelled to Lasslett's property, bringing a cutdown .22 rifle and a cutdown pump action shotgun.

”They walked onto the property and approached a glass sliding door of the converted shed where Mr Lasslett lived,” the appeal ruling said.

”Mr Lasslett was shot in the side of the head with the shotgun and in the back with the rifle. Mr Littlewood, who happened to be at the property at the time, was shot twice with the shotgun.

”It appears both men were shot from a position immediately inside the sliding door.”

Samuel Fane was sentenced at the High Court in Rotorua in July 2021.

The brothers also made a phone call to a man in South Auckland Prison after the killings where 'the brothers discussed, in what the trial Judge later described as ‘poorly disguised terms', what had occurred at Mr Lasslett's address”.

”Anthony said he would not allow the police to arrest him and would go out ‘in a blaze of glory'.”

”Samuel spoke of his intention to change his appearance.”

Anthony Fane was killed on February 13 in a hail of 49 bullets fired by police after a pursuit through residential streets in Tauranga, a shooting later deemed justified by an Independent Police Conduct Authority report.

The fatal shooting of Anthony Fane happened on Takitimu Drive, near the 15th Ave overpass.

That same day, police in Christchurch arrested Samuel Fane, 'who had shaved his head”.

Fane's lawyer Simon Lance told the Court of Appeal that Anthony was the principal; offender who fired the fatal shots, and that there was 'insufficient evidence” Samuel was party to Littlewood's murder.

He also claimed the trial judge 'failed in his summing up to adequately link the law to the facts as they related to this form of criminal liability.

Lance said the two brothers were unknown to Littlewood and they could not have known of his presence at the address.

'Samuel could not have contemplated this person's murder and there was therefore insufficient evidence upon which the jury could draw the necessary inference that he had the required knowledge and intention to assist Anthony to kill a person neither brother knew would be there”.

The appeal judges, however, disagreed.

'While he [Samuel] initially considered trying to talk Anthony out of killing Mr Lasslett, upon learning his brother has already killed his partner he no longer thought that was an option and committed himself to assisting Anthony,” the ruling said.

The appeal judges also said they 'do not consider there is realistically any possibility of a miscarriage arising from the way the Judge directed the jury. . . in relation to the murder of Mr Lasslett”.

'Having upheld Samuel's convictions on both murder charges, we do not consider there is any basis to disturb the 17-year minimum period of imprisonment.”

-Benn Bathgate/Stuff.

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