Vin­cent Skeen guilty of man­slaugh­ter

Auckland City Harbour News - - PUBLIC NOTICES - KELLY DENNETT

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.

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