A jury has found Samuel Deane Fane guilty of murdering of Paul Lasslett and Nicholas Littlewood in what the Crown described as”execution-style” shootings in Ōmanawa last year.

The jury delivered their unanimous verdicts on two counts of murder for Fane, 26, in the Tauranga High Court yesterday.

Fane’s partner Sarah Lee Tarei, 25, was found guilty of being an accessory after the fact to the murders, which related to her helping him attempt to evade arrest.

Outside court, Detective Sergeant Geoff Whiteside told the Bay of Plenty Times that the jury’s verdicts were a “good result, especially for the victims’ families”.

“Obviously, it cannot bring back their loved ones, but hopefully it can bring a little bit of closure that someone has been held accountable for their family members’ deaths.”

Whiteside said he and Crown solicitor Anna Pollett had spoken to Lasslett and Littlewood’s families outside the courthouse and they were obviously relieved by the verdicts.

“It’s been a hard road for both families, not just going through the ordeal of the jury trial but everything leading up to it,” he said.

He said he would be assisting the Lasslett and Littlewood families through the next tough phase of the court process, as they begin to prepare their victim impact statements.

Whiteside said one thing he and the victims’ families wanted to make sure was that the community understands is this was not a gang-related matter.

“It was a very serious family harm incident and an absolute tragedy for everyone involved.”

The trial

Samuel Fane, 26, denied murdering Lasslett, 43, and Littlewood, 32, at Lasslett’s Ormsby Lane property in Ōmanawa on February 11 last year.

The Crown evidence was that Samuel and his late brother, Anthony Fane, killed the two men after Anthony Fane became convinced that Lasslett had been having an affair with his partner Jessie Lee Booth.

Booth, a mother of two, was found dead by police at her Brookfield home on February 14, 2020, the day after Anthony Fane was shot dead by the police.

The cause of death was multiple crossbow bolt wounds to her head.

Police believed Anthony Fane shot his partner on about February 9 with the crossbow he had bought about a month earlier.

During her closing address to the jury, Crown solicitor Anna Pollett said Lasslett’s death was “fairly and squarely a premeditated killing” by the brothers.

She said Samuel Fane was either one of the principal offenders, a party to the murder by actively helping his brother or they formed a “common enterprise” to kill Lasslett and anyone else who got in their way.

Pollett said there was clear evidence Samuel knew his brother had killed Booth and was on a mission to also kill Lasslett, and he insisted on going with him to help.

Pollett said Samuel Fane, armed with a sawn-off pump-action shotgun he had sourced, clearly knew the plan and was also guilty of murdering Littlewood.

Lasslett and Littlewood were fatally wounded with the shotgun Samuel Fane took with him after he and his partner fled to Christchurch after the shootings to enable him to “evade arrest”.

Both Samuel and Anthony Fane’s fingerprints were on the shotgun, and Lasslett was also shot with Anthony Fane’s cutdown .22 semi-automatic rifle.

Samuel Fane also provided his Ford Territory as transport and there was other “inescapable evidence” of his guilt, from Crown witnesses, texts, phone calls and CCTV footage.

Samuel also supported and encouraged Anthony in a prison phone call made to brother Cody Fane on February 13 last year during which they “shared high fives in celebration”.

Tarei assisted her partner to evade arrest over several days, included picking Samuel and Anthony up after the shootings, booking a ferry to the South Island and buying razor blades to enable her partner to change his look, Pollett said.

Simon Lance, Samuel Fane’s lawyer, argued that the jury must find his client not guilty because the person responsible was his client’s “angry and deranged” brother Anthony Fane.

“There is not a shred of evidence to support the Crown’s theory and you can quickly kick that notion into touch. Samuel Fane had no idea his brother was going to shoot those men.

“The person who is responsible is six feet under,” Lance argued.

Tarei’s lawyer Dale Dufty argued there was no direct evidence of his client having knowledge of the murders nor being a party to the Fane brother’s prison phone call.

“The inferences the Crown suggests are just not there … It is absolute guesswork.”

The jury’s verdict came after about seven hours and 40 minutes of deliberations which began on Friday morning.

Justice Gerard van Bohemen convicted Samuel Fane and Tarei of their charges and remanded Samuel Fane in custody. He further remanded Tarei on strict bail terms.

Both will be sentenced in the Rotorua High Court on July 30.

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