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Manslaughter verdict for Auckland teen

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/07/2016

Luke Tipene was allegedly killed in Grey Lynn, Auckland. © Facebook Luke Tipene was allegedly killed in Grey Lynn, Auckland. The family of a promising rugby league player killed by a bottle through the neck say they've been left traumatised and disappointed after two trials and a manslaughter verdict over his death.

Vincent Skeen, 18, was on Monday found not guilty of murdering 17-year-old Luke Tipene on November 1, 2014, but guilty of his manslaughter.

Mr Tipene, a promising rugby league player, died from blood loss after Skeen struck him in the neck with a broken glass bottle during a fight outside a party.

As the verdict was read, gasps and loud sobs came from the packed public gallery, with some of Mr Tipene's family walking out.

The trial was the second for friends and family of both teens, after a jury last year was unable to reach a decision.

This time the jurors returned with a verdict after five hours of talks.

Outside the court Mr Tipene's uncle, Sean Wilson, said while the family respected the jury's decision, reliving the trial had been traumatic - especially for Mr Tipene's mother - and the family were disappointed with the outcome.

"No parent should have to go through that twice," he said.

"No one is a winner today. No one is better off for it."

Mr Wilson could not say whether the family would ever forgive Skeen.

"The message here is that you've got to take responsibility for your actions, but the jury has made their decision and we have to respect that decision," he told reporters.

"We just need to move on with our lives and keep Luke's memory alive as much as we can."

Neither the accused nor the victim had attended the party where Mr Tipene was fatally wounded, but both became involved in a fight between their friends at the end of the night.

The Crown alleged Skeen became enraged after Mr Tipene knocked him over twice and smashed a beer bottle to use in retaliation.

Skeen's first words after the attack: "I've just stabbed that c***" - were a declaration of victory not regret, prosecutor Brian Dickey said.

Pathologist Paul Morrow told the court that based on various cuts and wounds it looked like Skeen had taken multiple swings at Mr Tipene with the bottle, lodging the fatal blow as deep as 12cm into the teen's throat.

But the defendant's lawyer, Lorraine Smith, argued everything Skeen had done after the fight showed he had never considered the consequences of his actions.

"As a matter of common sense, you don't announce to the crowd you've just murdered someone... He had no idea what he had done was serious," she told the jury.

His texts later in the night showed a high level of concern for Mr Tipene, and "utter disbelief" the teen could die.

She told the jury they could only convict Skeen of murder if they were completely certain that in the heat of the moment, and after being dazed by several punches, he still thought through his actions.

Skeen will be sentenced in August.

Mr Tipene had been named the Auckland League's under-17 player of the year, was selected for the New Zealand Maori under-17 side and named in the New Zealand under-17 merit team.

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