Comancheros slaying: Life sentence for 'main guy' in execution

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(pics) --- The "main guy" in a South Auckland execution-style killing which may have been ordered by the Comanchero Motorcycle Club's top brass has been jailed for life.

Viliami Taani was sentenced to life imprisonment this morning in the High Court at Auckland by Justice Anne Hinton.

He will serve a minimum period of imprisonment of 17 years and 6 months. For attempted murder he was senteced to 11 years and 2 months, which will be served concurrently.

Justice Hinton said there had been a high level of callousness and brutality.

"I agree this was an execution-style killing."

Taani had shot Epalahame Tu'uheava and his wife Yolanda (Mele) Tu'uheava several times on April 30 last year in Māngere.

The fact Tu'uheava survived "was nothing short of miraculous", Justice Hinton said.

"It is difficult to imagine a more serious attempted murder. You could hardly have done more to ensure that Mrs Tu'uheava died."

The couple had been lured to Greenwood Rd under the pretence of a drug deal before being gunned down.

Tu'uheava, a 28-year-old father also known as Hame or Abraham, died within minutes after being shot at least seven times, including three times in the head with a .22 calibre semi-automatic rifle.

But Yolanda survived by playing dead, despite two shots to the head with a revolver.

Police charged three men with the murder and attempted murder, including Taani.

The other two, Fisilau Tapaevalu and Mesui Tufui, went to trial in the High Court at Auckland last month.

The jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts for the duo, who are cousins and have links to the Comanchero Motorcycle Club.

Taani, also a cousin and a Comanchero member, was described by Yolanda during the trial as the "main guy" in the execution-style killing.

He had pleaded guilty to both murder and attempted murder a week before Tapaevalu and Tufui went to trial.

During the trial the court heard the hits on the pair may have been ordered from leaders of the Comancheros in Australia.

They had been given the "green light to kill" Tu'uheava, who had an association with the Australian Nomads gang, the court heard.

Yolanda, who was shot at least four times and still has a bullet lodged in her head, testified in the trial via video link from an undisclosed location.

It is understood she has been in witness protection.

On April 30, at a late night meeting she saw the defendant Taani pointing a gun at her husband.

As they ran away, they were being shot at.

One of the trio approached Mrs Tu'uheava and she was shot twice in the head with a .38 revolver pistol.

"She fell to the ground but was still conscious," Justice Anne Hinton said.

She could hear her husband calling her name. As he tried to run away, Taani shot him twice in the side of his body with a .22 calibre rifle.

Taani then walked up to Mr Tu'uheava and shot him a further two times before shooting at Mrs Tu'uheava again and leaving the scene.

The group then went to Tapaevalu's address in Mangere.

There they disposed of the cell phone that had been used to contact Mr Tu'uheava
in a fire.

It wasn't until about 6.00am the next day that a passing motorist saw
Mr and Mrs Tu'uheava on the side of the road and called emergency services.

Suregeons extracted one bullet from her head, another had to remain because it was "too dangerous" to remove it.

Justice Hinton said according to her victim impact statement, her vision was deterioating and she required glasses.

"And in what must be a significant understatement 'her life is not the same."

She can not work because of her injuries and her benefit left her with just $20 at the end of the week, she said.

But she remains grateful to be alive because she does not know how her son would have coped without both of his parents.

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Chelsea Boyle
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nzherald.co.nz




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