Life sentences for four murderers

  • 29/04/2013

The sister of an Auckland man who was murdered in a "savage" group attack says she blames herself for his death every day.

Millia Li'a was speaking at the sentencing of the three men and one woman convicted of murdering her brother John on October 14, 2011 in the Auckland suburb of Mt Roskill.

Cecilia Uhrle, Unalotu Tongia, Esau Vailagilala and Faamanu Fesuluai were today sentenced to life imprisonment.

In handing down their sentences, Justice Mark Cooper said he was satisfied "this was a very savage attack committed in close quarters".

John and his younger sister Millie had been at Uhrle's birthday party, but left after an argument, with John smashing windows of Uhrle's car and front door on the way out.

Uhrle, who was 39 at the time, along with her then-partner Fesuluai, who was 43, and Tongia and Vailagilala, both 19, chased John and attacked him in the street. They kicked, punched and stabbed him with a number of weapons, fatally wounding him. Millie hid while the attack was taking place.

John's father, mother and two sisters made emotional speeches at today's hearing about how difficult their lives had been since John's death, and how they were trying to suppress the urge to seek revenge.

His father Laumua Li'a spoke of how he and John would do everything together -making taro, fixing cars and building things.

"I miss my son very much, he is always in my thoughts."

But he also spoke of his anger.

"The way these four friends have treated my son makes me feel sad. Four against one, they chased him like an animal, they used weapons and treated him like a piece of meat."

John's mother Akesa Li'a was very upset and spoke passionately about how the death has affected her family.

"You can't imagine how you feel when one part of you has been taken away, the hurt and the pain won't go away.

"My family and I cry a lot, no words can say what we really feel."

She said John was a budding rugby player and had a bright future.

Since his death she had been unable to keep working because she was too depressed, and was now on medication. But she said her daughter Millie, who saw the attack, was the worst affected.

"She can't forget. She doesn't cope, she is suffering the most."

Millie, wearing a t-shirt with her brother John's image on it, spoke tearfully of the guilt she feels about his death.

"I know people are blaming me for his death. I blame myself every day and I also blame the offenders.

"I am angry and I hate how they killed him."

She feels she has changed as a person.

"John's death has left me scared and vulnerable," she said. "I've become depressed."

Millie and her older sister Solonaima Li'a have been trying not to let their anger get out of control.

"I wanted to retaliate and make them feel my pain," Solonaima said. "What you did to my brother and how you took him from us is unforgiveable."

"As much as I wanted to have revenge, I had to hold it in," Millie said.

Solonaima also spoke of how her brother was trying to make something of himself, and a week after he died a woman called to say she wanted to give him a job starting the next week.

"It was horrible, I couldn't even tell her."

Throughout the speeches, the younger offenders Tongia and Vailagilala had tears in their eyes, but Uhrle and Fesuluai did not show signs of emotion.

Uhrle's lawyer Greg Bradford made a statement on his client's behalf, saying she was sorry for what happened.

"She says sorry to the Li'a family. You may not forgive her, but she means it. You may have feelings of retribution towards her family… but they should not be punished for what their mother has done."

The minimum non-parole periods for the four range from 13 to 15 years.

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source: newshub archive


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