CRIME Howkiller became a victim
Two of the four men involved in the notorious Bouma home invasion are now dead. Tim Hume reports on the chaotic life and sudden death of Dillon Hitaua.
DILLON HITAUA, one of Beverly Bouma’s killers, moved to his parent’s remote Urewera farmhouse after his release from prison in an attempt to isolate himself from gang life and change his ways.
But his violent instincts proved harder to leave behind. The 33-year-old – who received a 10-year sentence for manslaughter for his role in the infamous 1998 home invasion – died three weeks ago after being stabbed in the thigh with a kitchen knife by his longterm partner, Leigh Tamati, during a 7.30am domestic dispute.
Neighbours in the quiet valley bundled him into a car and drove him 12km to an ambulance on SH2. But the knife had pierced two arteries, causing heavy bleeding, and Hitaua died in Tauranga Hospital that night.
Tamati, 39, was initially charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter during a court hearing on Wednesday, where name suppression on both parties was lifted. The amended charge, said Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Standen, reflected the fact ‘‘she never intended to kill’’. She will be sentenced in Rotorua High Court next month.
It was a cruel – but, sources say, not unforeseeable – end to hopes of a happier life for Tamati, the mother of Hitaua’s teenaged children. She had testified against Hitaua – whom she then described as an ‘‘ex’’ – in the Bouma trial, then moved with him to the Matahi Valley six months ago as they tried for a fresh start. Hitaua had left prison in 2005.
Their relationship had always been violent, said Sergeant Chris McLeod, one of the Rotorua police officers who investigated the Bouma killing. Before Hitaua went to prison, ‘‘it wasn’t uncommon for him to wander into her place whenever he felt like it, grab a feed out of the fridge, say hello to the kids, then drink whatever piss was there and shoot through. People weren’t big on protection orders in those days, and he was dominating her’’.
It is understood Hitaua was convicted of domestic assault last year. Despite this, Hitaua’s move to his parent’s old home in the Matahi Valley represented a ‘‘conscious step to try to get things on track’’, said Standen. ‘‘It was one way of stepping out of that criminal environment, distancing himself from the gang scene, and trying to do his own thing with his family,’’ he said, adding Hitaua had been frustrated by his meagre income as a possum hunter.
Hitaua, a solidly built man with a Black Power fist tattooed on his back, is the second of the four men responsible for Bouma’s killing to have died prematurely. David Tuhua Poumako, the man who shot Bouma, died of a heart attack in Auckland Prison in 2001, aged 27.
Mark Reihana, who, along with brother Luke, is one of Hitaua’s two surviving accomplices, told the Sunday Star-Times he had not seen Hitaua in about a year. ‘‘What a waste. Young, eh. And now he’s buried six feet under.’’
Poumako, as both the eldest and the one who shot Bouma after she refused his sexual demands, is often viewed as the ringleader of the group. But his cooffenders told police that Hitaua, 23 at the time of the attack, played a part in encouraging the home invasion, in response to financial pressure. Hitaua woke the Boumas in their bed, pointing a .22 rifle at them, following a sustained alcohol bender in the preceding days, as he and Poumako drank the spoils of a recent pub robbery.
Before the killing, the offenders, who hailed from the ailing former forestry village of Kaingaroa, were minor players in the criminal scene, involved in stealing from tourists’ cars, ‘‘ghostbusting’’ (stealing marijuana from plots in the neighbouring forest), and ‘‘angry knifing’’ (butchering stolen livestock).
McLeod said Tamati had been ‘‘left with the burden’’ of the knowledge of the Bouma killing after he confessed his involvement to her. When police searched her Rotorua home they found her ‘‘distraught as hell’’.
‘‘She just burst into tears, said ‘I hate him. Why did he tell me this?’ All of a sudden out it came. It was one of the big parts of the puzzle.’’
Tamati told the court during Hitaua’s trial that she had found him at her home the day after the Bouma killing, with $200 for bills. They took their children to The Warehouse to buy them shoes, when Hitaua confessed his involvement in the crime, asking her: ‘‘Haven’t you read the papers? Didn’t you hear of the woman who was shot in Reporoa?’’
She told the court: ‘‘I went into a panicky state when he said where he got the money from. I looked towards my children, who were so excited to have new shoes and posters. I asked him, ‘Did you shoot her?’ and he said ‘No.’ I asked, ‘Don’t you feel as guilty?’ and he said, ‘Yeah.’ He cried and cried.’’
One of Hitaua’s cousins, who did not want to be named, said Hitaua’s killing had hit the Kaingaroa community hard.
‘‘It’s a tragedy what happened to my cousin. He was trying his hardest to get his life back, and he was getting it together. But hey, when you have a partner calling you a murderer, shit happens. It seems all the name-calling turned around, and made a killer out of her. It’s really sad, as they loved each other but couldn’t live together.’’