Footage released during the trial of the 2021 gangland shooting at the Sofitel hotel in Auckland. Video / Distributed by
A member of the Head Hunters and a motorcycle gang suspect involved in a shooting during a gang war inside the lobby of a luxury Auckland hotel last year have been found guilty. .
Jurors at Auckland’s High Court spent seven hours over two days returning guilty verdicts for Tyran Panapa and his partner this afternoon.
Three other co-accused – Patched members Marcus Nielsen and Fred Tanuwaza and gang associate Parire Paikia – were acquitted.
Justice Simon Moore ordered the two convicts to return to court in February to be sentenced alongside ex-co-defendant Hon Reihana, a member of Head Hunters who pleaded guilty two weeks ago – days before the trial was due to start – to the same offence. Discharging a firearm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
In April 2021, Reihana admitted to firing two shots at the Sofitel Hotel in central Auckland’s Viaduct district, targeting a former Head Hunters member who had defected to an anti-Mongolian gang, at around 9am on a weekday. It follows a week of heightened violence between gangs, including the “firebombing” of a Mongolian-aligned business and multiple drive-by shootings at gang-related addresses.
No one was injured in the Sofitel shooting, but a rival gang member and a hotel employee ducked out of the way as one of the bullets hit a wall near them. The highly public nature and unusual location of the massacre generated nationwide headlines, political commentary and a large police response.
Of the five others whose trial began last week, four were seen on CCTV footage in and outside the five-star hotel on the morning of the shooting. A fifth person, Tanuwaza, had lied to the receptionist about coming from the airport and inquired about reservations at the hotel the night before.
In order to find the men guilty, jurors must believe that they acted for a common purpose and knew or should have known that it was likely to end in a shooting. Tanuwasa’s lawyer, Shannon Withers, told jurors during his closing arguments yesterday that the Crown’s claims of common intent amounted to an unproven “conspiracy theory” that was “cobbled together with heroic leaps of logic”.
While the simplest explanation is that Reyhana fired in a flash without prior discussion or warning, the police were accused of “tunnel vision” and their “cream of the crop” detectives were put on the case in hopes of uncovering a gang conspiracy.
“Most of us are tired of the endless cycle of violence and stupidity … but there is real danger in lumping people together,” he said, urging jurors to take proactive steps to suppress any preconceived notions about gang membership and association. When it’s time to think.
“Prejudice is a cancer of justice,” he said. “The path to faith must be proven fact … There is no evidence of a shared plan between these men.”
Lawyer Marcus Edgar was the only other lawyer to make a closing address yesterday, while lawyers for the other three defendants and the Crown addressed the jury on Friday.
As an “associate” of the gang — not one of the more than 300 members and potential members — his client Paikia should be the first to be exonerated, Edgar argued. If there was a plan, it was unlikely that someone of such a low rank would be allowed in, he said.
But Edgar said “a crazy plan to unleash violence in a hotel lobby” never existed.
Some of the accused used their own names and parked naked in front of CCTV cameras, he noted. After the shooting, two of the co-accused were told not to get into the Util where Rihanna was taken because there was not enough space.
“Were they really amateurs? [It] Beggars belief,” he said. “Not a good plan – it’s Mr. Rihanna on his own merry-go-round…
“It does not add up that it was a … coordinated plan. Avoid guesswork and speculation. There are many loopholes in this case. “
In his own address Friday, prosecutor Robin McCoughry told jurors the idea that the “absolutely outlandish” $429-a-night hotel stay coincided with the stay of a turncoat Mongolian member was hard to swallow.
“They’re not there to get a facial at the spa,” McCoubry said. “They’re not there to eat cucumber sandwiches at tea. They have come to do a job.
This is the most meaningful explanation, he argued.