Vincent Skeen guilty of manslaughter
The family of a teenager who died in a fight say the message to take from his death is that ‘‘you’ve got to take responsibility for your actions’’.
Members of rising league star Luke Tipene’s family were speaking just after another teen, Vincent Skeen, was found guilty of Tipene’s manslaughter.
After five hours’ deliberation the jury in the High Court in Auckland on Monday rejected the Crown’s argument that Skeen was guilty of murder, but instead decided on a lesser verdict of manslaughter.
Family members of both teenagers cried as the verdicts were read.
Outside court Tipene’s uncle Sean Wilson said the family was disappointed with the outcome but wanted to move on with their lives.
Having to relive Tipene’s death not once, but during two trials, had been particularly traumatic, he said.
‘‘No parent should go through that twice. All testament to my sister [Tipene’s mother] for enduring this. We didn’t want to relive it but we’ve gone through this process.
‘‘We are disappointed but we’ve got to respect the jury. They’ve made their decision. No one is a winner today. No one is better off for it and we just have to respect that.’’
The family had some small closure from the verdict, he said.
‘‘We can somewhat move on. But we’ve got to think about the beautiful things that Luke stood for, and remember Luke the way he was - a fantastic person - and so that’s what we’ll be doing.
Skeen will be sentenced in August. He has been in custody since his arrest in 2014.
The verdict followed a week-long trial during which jurors heard of the teenage tensions that lead to Tipene’s fatal stabbing.
The 17-year-old league player had gone to a Grey Lynn Halloween party shortly after midnight, in the early hours of November 1, after getting word that a friend of his was involved in a fight.
By the time he arrived, Tipene’s friend was already in a one-on-one punching fight with another teenager following a disagreement about a girl.
Witnesses to the fight described to the court how Skeen intervened in the skirmish by punching Tipene’s friend in the side of the head.
Frustrated, Tipene called out Skeen for involving himself unfairly in the one-on-one.
Witnesses said Tipene then punched Skeen in the head so hard the then-16-year-old Skeen fell to the ground.
The fight continued and Tipene punched Skeen to the ground one more time before witness Carl Jota, 19, told the court he saw Skeen run behind a white ute and appeared to be fiddling in the back of it.
The Crown alleged Skeen was looking for a weapon but unable to find it, grabbed a full beer bottle and smashed it before advancing on Tipene.
Gripping the base of the bottle he stabbed Tipene in the throat, the jagged edge causing a 10-12cm gouge to the teenager’s neck.
Witnesses said Skeen announced - triumphantly the Crown said - ‘‘I just stabbed that c***’’ before jumping into a car and leaving the scene.
‘‘I caked it,’’ Skeen was said to have told friends as they drove away - slang for, ‘I stuffed up’.
He later hid from police underneath a house, frantically texting friends, ‘Oh my god he might die’.
Meanwhile costumed party goers tried in vain to stop the flow of blood coming from Tipene’s throat.
He had collapsed against a white picket fence and was rushed to hospital at 12.30am.
Surgeons at Auckland City Hospital attempted to save his life but he was pronounced dead about 4.40am.
Luke Tipene, 17, was a star league player.