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Jury mulls Epsom motel murder verdict

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 21/04/2016
Beauen Wallace-Loretz and Leonard Nattrass-Berquist © NZ Police Beauen Wallace-Loretz and Leonard Nattrass-Berquist

A jury mulling its verdict on two teenagers accused of murdering a man in an Epsom motel room will resume deliberations on Friday.

Before retiring it was told that it must decide if the teens killed Ihaia Gillman-Harris in self defence or had plotted to use force to rob him.

Leonard Nattrass-Berquist and Beauen Wallace-Loretz, both 18, are charged with the murder and robbery of 54-year-old Mr Gillman-Harris at the Ascot Motel in Epsom on December 27, 2014.

The jury was sent home after around two hours of deliberations,

Justice Kit Toogood, in a seven-hour long summing up, instructed the jury of nine women and three men to put aside any emotions or prejudices against either the victim's or defendants' lifestyle.

The only direct evidence of what had occurred in the motel room had been given by Nattrass-Berquist, who the Crown discredited, the judge said.

"You have to be sure that he's not telling the truth before you can convict either of these young men with murder," he told the jury.

The Crown alleges the two accused hatched a plan to beat and rob Mr Gillman-Harris, who had befriended them a week before his death.

Once they realised he was gay and wanted to pay for sexual activities, they pretended to agree to such a deal but secretly plotted how they would carry out the violent robbery, it is alleged.

Texts sent between the pair in the hours before the victim's death, while he drove them around Auckland, included references to his sexuality and a robbery plot.

However the defence said the boys were forced to hit Mr Gillman-Harris with a bottle of spirits in self defence.

Nattrass-Berquist said Mr Gillman-Harris sexually attacked him, and Wallace-Loretz leapt to his defence, he said.

A pathologist told the court Mr Gillman-Harris sustained at least four serious blows to the head, which caused his death.

The trial continues.

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