Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Killer's mother-in-law defends his character


The man who this week admitted killing another man in an Auckland road rage incident has been portrayed unfairly, according to his mother-in-law.

Bio O'Brien, 28, a student from the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu, pleaded guilty in Auckland District Court on Tuesday to the manslaughter of Jasmatbhai Patel, 78.

Patel, who was driving a van, was attacked by O'Brien after what police called a "minor crash" with his BMW on April 7 in Mt Albert.

Patel was admitted to Auckland Hospital but died the following day, and his family say there has been no apology and appeared to be no remorse from O'Brien since the "vicious" attack.

O'Brien's mother-in-law, Saria Tufala, disagreed and said there was remorse - something which was reflected in the guilty plea.

But she said she disputed some of the prosecution's summary about O'Brien repeatedly punching Patel.

"They were both denying responsibility over who caused the accident but Bio knew that his car was damaged and it was a BMW so he wanted Mr Patel to have a look at it, but he refused to," she said.

Tufala said O'Brien had responded by grabbing Patel by the shirt and pushing him.

She refused to talk about O'Brien's history or character, but admitted it would be good for him to "learn lessons" in jail.

She believed O'Brien had been portrayed in an unfair light, and had not "violently, brutally or physically assaulted Mr Patel".

"If he was so brutal, why are there no records like that of him in the islands or here?"

When asked about how her daughter was coping, she said thoughts went to the Patel family, as they would be feeling worse.

"Justice has been served for Mr Patel," she said.

A woman who knew O'Brien well through the Tuvaluan community told the Unitec student magazine In Unison, she was not surprised when she first heard of the assault.

The 21-year-old, who goes by the name Latoya, said: "I knew that was coming, I had a feeling.

He's got a real temper on him."

Latoya has known O'Brien for about 10 years. She says "he's the type of guy that is really creepy.

"He comes across as really cocky ... He used to get drunk and start trouble wherever, and whenever. He's not a nice guy."

She said in the Tuvaluan youth community all the girls knew him as a "wannabe player", and so avoided him.

O'Brien was studying first year engineering at Unitec at the time of the attack.

However, since the guilty plea, a Unitec spokesperson told In Unison that he had been un-enrolled.

"Bio O'Brien is no longer enrolled as a Unitec student due to his inability to attend classes.

O'Brien was remanded in custody until sentencing in the High Court at Auckland on September 29