The brutal killer of young mother, Joanne Wang, murdered in front of her eight year old son at the Manukau Westfield shopping centre, has today received a ‘life’ sentence with a minimum parole period of 12 years.
Christopher Shadrock, 23, was found guilty of murdering Mrs Wang in June 2008, five other people – Maka Tuikolovatu, 21, Lionel Tekanawa, 24, Vila Lemanu, 25, Mateni Lynch, 20, and Terence Tere, 22, were found guilty of helping Shadrock get rid of the handbag and torch the stolen vehicle.
During the sentencing the judge let slip that the youths were linked to a notorious street gang – the Killer Beez (an often mentioned gang on this blog) that causes trouble around much of the Auckland district, including areas in the relatively affluent North Shore. (The Beez are a youth gang linked to the Tribesmen, there are at least 70 major gangs in New Zealand)
“The judge said the group was a “cowardly and despicable” organised handbag-snatching group and several of them were linked to the notorious Killer Beez gang.
Tuikolovatu was sentenced to 18 months in prison, Tekanawa to two years and Lemanu to three years. Lynch and Tere’s sentencing was postponed to consider home detention.”
Before the men were taken away to start their prison terms the judge issued a stinging rebuke for the lifestyles they followed, saying that they have each chosen to be in the position they were in, despite the disadvantages and deprivation they had grown up with:
“It was depressing to hear in the trial of the culture of idleness, of loafing, of kicking back … days of playing PlayStation and drinking,” Justice Rodney Hansen said. The phrase “The Devil makes work for idle hands” had never been truer”.
He told them to reject the friendship of gangs and “break the cycle of crime” by embracing education and achievers in the community whom they could look up to as mentors.
The judge said they were all capable of achieving something positive so something good could come out of this “tragic, needless death”.
A Herald report went on to give more details about the youth’s backgrounds, giving an insight into a fairly typical upbringing for many Kiwi youth:
Tuikolvatu had 26 previous convictions, mainly for dishonesty offences, and had links with the Killer Beez gang. He has had three short stints behind bars before. A pre-sentencing report said he had no career aspirations and had a high risk of reoffending – probably because of his lack of insight and remorse.
Te Kanawa grew up in Christchurch with “crime all around … Growing up it was just a part of life,” he told a pre-sentencing report writer. In a welfare home by 12 and out of school by 15, he denied any gang involvement but acknowledged he had abused alcohol and drugs. He was learning Maori, partly because his 4-year-old daughter was attending a kohanga reo. A conviction for injuring with intent to injure in 2006 is among 12 previous convictions.
Lemanu is one of seven children. He told of his siblings having “respectable” careers, although he never enjoyed the same success. His criminal associations contributed to his ongoing offending and he was thought to be at a high risk of re-offending because of the “harmful pattern” of alcohol and drug abuse.
Shadrock grew up in Hamilton and was abused as a teenager in what a cousin said was a Once Were Warriors environment. His first time in court was at 15 but he had no history of violence. He has a history of alcohol and drug abuse, links to the Killer Beez and the Tribesmen and no real employment.”
The snatch was one of many to be targeted at Asian women in South Auckland, the victims are seen as affluent and easy to rob. In the year that Mrs Wang died there were 47 Bag Snatches over the Christmas period. In December police released released video footage of another dramatic handbag theft in South Auckland, showing a woman being dragged along the ground by her attacker.
At the time police said that it was becoming a “big problem in the area and the criminals were targeting Asians”.
Another similar robbery led to a shoot-out on an Auckland motorway and the death of an innocent courier driver that was caught in cross fire.
Joanne’s murder sent shock waves through the local community and and devastated the family she left behind, including her son whom was badly traumatised by her death and lost a mother he adored:
Victim impact statements by Wang’s husband and parents said the effect on Edmund, now 10, had been profound. “The whole horrific tragedy happened in front of him… he had never left her side for a day of his life,” Wang’s husband, Jialin Wang wrote.
“My heart is broken forever by your moment of stupidity and greed.” Mrs Wang’s parents’ statements said they were trying to stay strong to support their grandson.
Our thoughts today are with Mrs Wang’s family and we’d like to convey our deepest sympathies for their sad loss.
12 years is nowhere near long enough.