Haze Peihopa murder: Sister pays tribute to victim, says both families hurting

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Haze Peihopa.

Haze Peihopa.
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The sister of a Whangārei murder victim has paid tribute to her “amazing” sibling this afternoon and acknowledged the pain his killer’s family are also enduring.

A 21-year-old man was found guilty of murdering 23-year-old forestry worker Haze Peihopa in a horrific stabbing in the CBD, just before midnight on Saturday, June 12 last year.

Peihopa died in hospital soon after.

His killer was also found guilty of assault with a weapon this afternoon, by the High Court jury.

The killer’s younger brother, and co-accused, was found not guilty of murder, but the teen had earlier pleaded guilty to an additional charge of injuring with intent.

After the verdicts, Peihopa’s older sister, Keita Karena, told RNZ Haze was “a man that knew how to love life and he loved life so much” – and did so right up to his death.

“He deserved that so much, with our childhood, and growing up, and college. He deserved to be so happy. And he really was, he really was happy. The happiest I’ve ever seen my brother.”

She said, “as soon as he walked into a room, he just had that charisma”.

He was a proud, tall, Ngāpuhi man, who “could make you laugh, make you smile, without even flinching”.

“He just had a heart of gold. He had hard-working hands, he defended what he loved.”

Haze was one of four siblings who grew up on Auckland’s North Shore, and had enjoyed returning to Te Tai Tokerau and meeting more whanaunga there who he had not met during his childhood in Tāmaki Makaurau.

“He loved being from Pipiwai,” Karena said.

“Everyone who’s crossed paths with Haze has got nothing but funny stories, jokes.”

Haze also loved sports, and had dreamed of being a professional boxer, she said

“As we grew up everyone loved my brothers, they were quite popular as teammates, at school, at work. He never disappointed anyone.”

Haze was the second-eldest of the siblings, and Karena said some of her fondest memories were of Haze teaching her, and her partner, how to dive for kina.

“And he was an amazing uncle. Loved my daughter, loved my girl so much, and we would always go camping.”

Haze was also “not afraid of hard work” and got very fit working in forests, and he loved connecting with others from Pipiwai, in his site crew.

“He loved hard labour,” she said, and “he always, always had a job”.

“He knew the way of life. You’ve got to work to what you get, [he was] never afraid to love each weekend with beach trips. He never stayed home, was always going out to adventure to new kina spots.”

Karena chose not to make a statement on the verdicts, but said her family had been “hurting this whole time with the build-up”.

“And you know, both families have hurt, not just mine, their [the offenders’] family too, and I’d like to acknowledge that. Because, although it could have gone absolutely crazy, they went out as respectfully as they could. And that took a lot of courage, from my eyes.”

She said: “If I was sitting on the other side of the fence, it would just hurt. I would just feel very hurt. [There are] just no words to explain that, nothing prepared us for this … Both sides of the families are very hurt”.

Karena said her brother touched the hearts of many rangatahi, particularly from school.

“They followed us until we were adults.”

And each time her brother had a visit from an old friend, or heard from them, “he’d be sure to be over the moon to reconnect again”.

“We’ve never lost ourselves. We’re reminded of who we are with our people. And his funeral really showed that. A lot of us rangatahi really showed up.”

The verdicts

Before the verdicts, Justice Brewer told members of the public gallery to leave if they thought they would not be able to contain their emotions.

One man, from Haze Peihopa’s family, left, and Justice Brewer said: “I think that gentleman was very courageous”.

When the verdicts were read, the killer’s family wept and wailed, shouted they loved him, and said “kia kaha”.

The man’s mother wept and said: “I love you son.”

He faced them and touched his chest.

The family was removed from the court for disrupting proceedings.

Members of the jury cried, seeing the reaction in the public gallery, as did members of Haze Peihopa’s family.

Justice Brewer told the jury they had done “a very hard job”.

“I really never comment on the verdicts brought by juries, it’s not for me, but because of the outburst that you have experienced, and because I know that has affected you, if I had been sitting in the 12th chair … I would have come to the same conclusions that you have done.”

Convictions were entered, and sentencing will be held in February.

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