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Courtroom chaos as man cleared of murder

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/11/2016 Boris Jancic

Having angrily tweeted about his neighbours' latest, noisy, mid-week party, Dustin La Mont left home and set off down the street with a knife in his pocket.

A few minutes later one man was dead and another was fighting for his life.

Now a jury has found 26-year-old La Mont not guilty of murdering Whangarei man Nathan Pukeroa, 24, outside 21 Renton Road in Auckland's Mount Albert at about midnight on December 2 - after he argued self-defence.

It took the jurors at the High Court at Auckland five hours of deliberation on Friday to clear him of the charge, along with another of grievously wounding Northland man Devaray Junior Cole-Kuvarji, 23 in same stabbing.

As the verdict was read, Mr Cole-Kuvarji stood from his seat in the public gallery, slamming the glass dock before being taken outside.

Members of the public swore at La Mont, who stared down breathing heavily, and a woman could be heard screaming outside shortly after.

During the trial, prosecutors argued La Mont had become obsessed with getting the residents of next-door No. 21 evicted as his frustration grew over their partying and Mongrel Mob visitors and activities.

Crown lawyer Steve Haszard told the court the neighbours were "no angels", with reports of drug use, dealing, and numerous police callouts in the nearly two years La Mont lived over the fence.

He began secretly filming No. 21's residents - going as far as hiding in their bushes to look through their windows - repeatedly calling police, tracking the licence plates of visitors and complaining on social media.

On the night of the stabbing, he reached boiling point, Mr Haszard said.

One of La Mont's tweets from that night read: "Sounds like the mongrel s**tf**ks next door are having another midweek party, yipee."

Afterwards he sent out: "Looking forward to getting my statement out of the way."

Both the defence and prosecution agreed Mr Pukeroa and Mr Cole-Kuvarji followed La Mont up the dead-end street after seeing him at the end of the driveway of No. 21, where they happened to be visiting.

But what happened next was a key question.

Prosecutors said La Mont swung the knife so hard into Mr Pukeroa's neck it went deeper than the length of the blade and that Mr Cole-Kuvarji only survived because a second quick strike missed his jugular.

After the attack, La Mont bleached his clothes, shaved his beard and kept tweeting, Mr Haszard said.

"The 'victim' ladies and gentlemen," one of his tweets read, with a link to a photo of Mr Pukeroa.

But La Mont told police the men had cornered him, accusing him of being a police officer and threatening to "smash" him.

He warned the pair he was armed but one of them had swung at him as he tried to flee, the accused said in an interview.

Defence lawyer David Hoskin said it was "absurd" to suggest La Mont had wanted to intentionally attack his "dangerous" neighbours - and that the men had come after him, wary police or rival drug dealers were after meth and $70,000 cash stashed at the house.

Pukeroa and Cole-Kuvarji were intimidating, large men with violent histories - Cole-Kuvarji having only recently been released from jail for assaulting and robbing foreign tourists - and had been drinking, Mr Hoskin said.

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