Two cousins with links to the Comanchero gang have failed to win their appeals over an execution-style killing and attempted murder.
Earlier this year, Mesui Tufui appealed his conviction and Fisilau Tapaevalu appealed his sentence.
The pair had been found guilty by a jury over the murder of Epalahame Tu’uheava and attempted murder of his partner Yolanda (Mele) Tu’uheava.
The victims had been lured to Greenwood Rd in Māngere under the pretence of a drug deal before being gunned down.
Epalahame, a 28-year-old father also known as Hame or Abraham, died within minutes.
But Yolanda survived by playing dead, despite being shot twice in the head with a revolver.
She described the man responsible for shooting her in the head as the “main guy”, while the one who shot her in the arm was “the younger guy”.
In the Crown case Viliami Taani- who pleaded guilty – was the “main guy” and Tufui was the “younger guy”.
But at their shared High Court trial Tufui and Tapaevalu ran cut-throat defences, pointing the finger at each other.
Tufui denied being at the scene at all.
He did not give evidence but relied on his statement to the police that provided an alibi.
However, neither of the women who he named as being with him at the time supported his claim.
Tapaevalu on the other hand gave evidence and claimed he stayed in the car, dozing in the back seat throughout the shooting.
Justice Graham Lang sentenced the pair on the basis Tufui was the younger guy and Tapaevalu – the driver – was aware of what was happening outside the car.
During the appeal, Tufui’s lawyer Paul Borich QC took issue with whether his client or Tapaevalu was the “younger guy”.
Borich argued he should have been allowed to show Tapaevalu’s arrest photographs to Yolanda and that this was essential to Tufui’s defence.
In a decision given by Justice Patricia Courtney, the Court of Appeal ruled there was “no reasonable possibility” a different verdict would have been given if those photographs were used.
Meanwhile, on behalf of Tapaevalu Julie-Anne Kincade QC had argued that the minimum term of 17 years’ imprisonment was excessive in relation to his role and culpability in the offending.
“The pursuit of Mr and Mrs Tu’uheava up the road, after at least one shot had been fired, was clearly going to end in only one way,” Justice Courtney said.
“Even allowing for the fact that Mr Tapaevalu was not directly involved in any of the violence we consider that his culpability as a party to this offending did warrant a minimum term of imprisonment of 17 years.”
Kincade also argued that the High Court judge erred in failing to take into account personal aspects raised in a letter from Tapaevalu’s sister written prior to sentencing.
Justice Courtney said while there was “considerable sympathy” for Tapaevalu’s many difficulties they agreed with the Crown that his offending did not “spring from his childhood deprivations but from poor choices as an adult”.
Both appeals were dismissed.
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