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.

Sunday Star-Times - - News -

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.’’

Bev­erly Bouma, mur­dered in 1998.

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