Comanchero associate Viliami Taani sentenced to prison for murder, attempted murder

A man, believed to be associated with the Comancheros, who murdered an Auckland man and attempted to kill his wife has been sentenced.

Viliami Taani pleaded guilty earlier this year to shooting and killing Epalahame Tu'uheava in Mangere last year. His wife, Yolana Tu'uheava, was also shot multiple times in the head but survived.

On Tuesday, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder with a non-parole period of 17 years and six months, and 11 years and two months for attempted murder.

Two associates of Taani - Mesui Tufui and Fisilau Tapaevalu - were found guilty of murder and attempted murder in June.

Judge Anne Hinton said there was a high level of brutality with the killing and agreed it was an "execution-style killing".

Yolanda survived after playing dead. She told the court earlier in June the pair lived in Australia for around three years, until 2017.

Judge Hinton said that Yolanda's survival was "nothing short of miraculous".

She says during that time, her husband developed a close association to the leader of the Nomads gang.

When they returned to New Zealand for financial reasons, she told the court Epalahame started to take notice of the Comancheros.

"He admired them," she said in June.

The Crown alleged they were lured to Greenwood Road over a potential drug deal.

Yolanda said during the trial of Tufui and Tapaevalu that the pair parked on Greenwood Rd and, a short time later, a car pulled up behind their vehicle. Her husband got out to speak to a man. She waited in the car playing on her phone for about an hour.

"Not too long after that I heard someone screaming," she told the court via video link.

Yolanda said her husband came over and blocked the drivers door of their vehicle.

"He said 'please, please don't my wife had nothing to do with it'. I couldn't understand what was going on."

She saw a man with a gun and got out of the vehicle. She said to the man: "Please don't I'm pregnant".

Yolanda said she was scared and began gripping her husband before she ran off down the street, followed by her husband.

She says the pair hid behind a tree before a vehicle pulled up near them. She said a man told the pair to walk through a gate into a field "indicating he was going to shoot and kill us in there".

"I just said no I'm not going in there. I started to pray," she said.

Yolanda said she was separated from her husband and then another man appeared with a gun.

"I got on my knees and then the last time I saw the young guy he was holding the gun and then the last thing I heard was bang and my arm fell."

She said she was shot twice in her arm.

"Then I seen him and then he looked frustrated that I didn't die. Then he turned around and I knew he was going to try and finish me off so I fell to my side and he went to start shooting me. I screamed out Jesus shield me. He just went click, click, click and there was no bullets left in his gun."

Yolanda said when the man went to reload his gun her husband got up and ran towards the couple's car. She then heard "bang, bang, bang" and her husband "went sliding on the ground and that was it. That was it for my husband".

She says she then went towards her husband and was shot twice in the head.

"My life flashed before my eyes and a voice in my head just says stay still."

Yolanda said she played dead and the men left. She managed to get close to the street so a passer-by might spot her. She lay on the ground praying and singing Tongan hymns.

It's alleged the shootings were a hit ordered by the Comanchero Motorcycle Gang in Australia, which has recently increased its presence in New Zealand.


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