Tribesmen gang members jailed for murder of prospect

  • 08/12/2017
Clayton Ratima's death came when he tried to enter the Tribesmen gang.
Clayton Ratima's death came when he tried to enter the Tribesmen gang. Photo credit: File

Two Auckland Tribesmen gang members who savagely beat one of their own prospects to death in a "senseless" attack will spend at least a decade in jail.

Denis Solomon, 32, and Vincent Mana George, 33, were on Friday each handed a life sentence for the murder of 24-year-old Clayton Ratima in February, 2016.

Neither will eligible for parole for 10 years.

Passing down the sentences in the High Court at Auckland, Justice Anne Hinton said Mr Ratima had died at the hands of the very gang he wanted to join.

"Hopefully his death will dissuade others from doing so," she said.

During the trial, the Crown said the pair, patched Tribesmen, coaxed Mr Ratima - manning the gate of the gang's Otara pad - into fighting another associate early on a Sunday morning.

As the reluctant men failed to land blows in a messy exchange before giving up, Solomon and George grew frustrated and launched a savage attack on Mr Ratima themselves.

At 190cm tall and weighing 130kg, Mr Ratima was an imposing figure.

But witnesses described him as a "gentle giant" and prosecutors said the two attackers knew that, as a prospect, he was not allowed to defend himself.

"He was not allowed to fight back ... This was violence of the most cowardly sort," Justice Hinton said.

In a statement read to the court on Friday, Mr Ratima's aunt described him as a humble man who would have "given the shirt off his back".

After the killing, Solomon and George departed to a "gentlemen's club" in central Auckland, leaving others to take Mr Ratima to the emergency department seven hours later with two fractures in his neck and a swollen brain, the court heard.

He died soon after.

Prosecutor Natalie Walker on Friday described the killing as a senseless act of "gratuitous, wanton violence".

For its part, the defence argued the prosecution's key witness - the man told to fight Mr Ratima - was very drunk at the time, and had initially not even mentioned the defendants to police - only changing his story later to protect himself.

On Friday, lawyer Shane Tait said Solomon had fallen in with the gang after being made redundant and had no history of violent convictions.

George's lawyer, Adam Simperingham, said his client was "genuinely remorseful".

Having never finished his first year of high school, Mr Ratima fell in with the Tribesmen while changing tyres for a living in Otara.

Members of the gang - including George - attended his funeral, leaving a patch on his coffin, to the dismay of family, the court heard.

NZN