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Gotingco family relieved at guilty verdict

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/05/2015

Blessie Gotingco. © Facebook Blessie Gotingco.

Blessie Gotingco's family say they want to remember her for "who she was and not the evil that happened".

On Friday, a 28-year-old man was found guilty of the rape and murder of the Auckland mother-of-three.

Speaking for the family, who came out to meet the media holding a framed portrait of Mrs Gotingco, Ruth Money said ahead of the one-year anniversary of the killing the family were looking forward.

"The family are extremely relieved the jury have rightly found this offender guilty of these heinous crimes," she said.

"Blessie was, and always will be a much-loved mother, wife, sister, aunty, daughter and friend. Her smile would light up your heart and will continue to do so."

The man accused of murdering <span style="font-size:13px;">Blessie Gotingco.</span> © TVNZ The man accused of murdering Blessie Gotingco.

It took just three hours for a jury to convict the man who killed and raped Blessie Gotingco.

But the speed of the deliberation did not reflect the gruelling nature of the four-week trial that preceded it.

The 28-year-old man, who still has name suppression, was found guilty on Friday of raping and stabbing to death Mrs Gotingco last May after having run her down with his car on Auckland's North Shore.

Many of the facts in the trial were never in question.

The defence quickly admitted the man had run over the Philippines-born mother of three, but said it was accidental.

And in a shock admission in the trial's closing days, the accused confessed to attacking her in his garage, saying he thought she was dead.

"I stabbed Mrs Gotingco," he told a stunned court.

Whether he thought Mrs Gotingco was alive when he stabbed her was the largest unknown that remained, Justice Timothy Brewer told jurors before they retired, just two days before the anniversary of the Mrs Gotingco's death.

"The real question in this trial is: are you sure that when [the defendant] inflicted the knife wounds on Mrs Gotingco, was he intending to kill Mrs Gotingco?" he said.

From its beginnings, the trial was riddled with interruptions and delays, with the defendant firing his legal team on the second day, only to have them kept on to assist him. He rehired the same lawyers one day from the end of the trial.

On several occasions he lost control in the dock, shouting and swearing at witnesses, prosecutors and Justice Brewer, even as the judge read his closing summary.

The prosecution, led by Kieran Raftery, called expert witness after expert witness, painting a protracted and vivid picture of a vicious, bloody attack and produced a long line of physical evidence linking the accused to the crime.

Among the experts was US-based pathologist Carl Wigren, who in a six-hour testimony described in grizzly detail dozens of wounds on Mrs Gotingco's body and the way she would have fought as her throat was slit.

Others, such as forensic scientist Fiona Matheson, told the jury Mrs Gotingco's blood was strewn across the walls of her killer's apartment and covered the back seat of his car.

Nearly three days of evidence were heard about the GPS bracelet that tracked the man's movement the night of the killing and several more about the semen found on Mrs Gotingco's corpse.

The defence, with Chris Wilkinson-Smith serving as amicus curiae, often raised the possibility of contamination of forensic evidence.

At no point did the defence suggest the defendant had sex with Mrs Gotingco after she was dead, but rather argued the semen inside her cervix had been the product of contamination during forensic checks.

"I did not rape Mrs Gotingco," the man told the court.

He said he had been high and looking for more methamphetamine when he accidentally ran Mrs Gotingco over before taking her home and stabbing her in a drug-fuelled panic.

But in a fiery closing speech, Mr Raftery disputed much of this, saying there was no evidence at the accused's home to suggest he had been a heavy user of drugs leading up to the killing.

He called the defence's entire case "a lie".

Justice Brewer in his closing remarks warned the jury to be cold and unemotional in their decision.

"You must put emotion to one side. There is plenty of room for inappropriate feelings in this case," he said.

"You cannot help but feel things about what happened to Mrs Gotingco. You know [the accused] stabbed her. You know he has a criminal history ... Well none of that is relevant to your job."

The man will be sentenced on August 6.

He chose not to appear in the dock as the verdicts were read, having earlier been thrown out for swearing at the judge.

Outside the court, the family addressed reporters holding a framed portrait of Mrs Gotingco and thanked the jury and the police.

"The family want to remember Blessie for who she was and not the evil that happened," spokeswoman Ruth Money said.

The defence served notice it will appeal the conviction.

Key facts in the case


A 28-year-old man, name suppressed, living on Auckland's North Shore


Charged with raping and murdering 56-year-old Blessie Gotingco

Philippines-born Mrs Gotingco worked at Tower Insurance and was reported missing after she didn't come home from work on May 24, 2014. Her body was found in a cemetery nearby her Birkdale home two days later.


The 28-year-old was arrested and charged with her murder soon after her body was found. The man lived just around the corner from Mrs Gotingco's Birkdale home and had been wearing a GPS tracking anklet at the time.


The Crown said the accused ran Mrs Gotingco down with a car as she walked home from her bus stop, put her inside his car and then drove back to his apartment where he raped and murdered her in a "frenzied attack" that included stabbing her and slitting her throat. The accused then dumped Mrs Gotingco's body in a nearby graveyard where he'd been the day before.

The defendant dumped his lawyers on the second day of the trial, choosing to represent himself with help from his former defence team. He rehired his lawyers on the second-to-last day of the trial.

The accused said he was high on P when he hit Mrs Gotingco. He believed she was dead and panicked, so put her in his car, took her home and stabbed her. But he said didn't rape her, saying police malpractice explained how his semen was found on her body.


The jury of seven men and five women took three hours to find the accused guilty of murder.


The man will be sentenced on August 6.

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