Family of former BBC journalist killed in New Zealand hit out after accused are cleared of murder

Nicho Allan Waipuka and  Manuel Renera Robinson
Nicho Allan Waipuka and Manuel Renera Robinson
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THE FAMILY of a former BBC Scotland journalist killed in New Zealand have hit out after the men accused of murdering him were cleared.

Phillip Cottrell, 43, was beaten to death a year ago as he walked home from his job as a news editor on a radio station in Wellington.

Journalsist Phillip Cottrell

Journalsist Phillip Cottrell

Yesterday Nicho Waipuka, 20, one of the two men accused of murdering Mr Cottrell was cleared on Monday by a jury of murder but found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

His co-accused, Manuel Robinson, 18, was acquitted of all charges and walked free from court.

Mr Cottrell’s sister, Sue Hollows, who sat through every day of the trial at the High Court in Wellington, told of her anguish at the outcome.

She said: “We are extremely disappointed with the outcome having heard every shred of evidence before the court.

“Phil was taken from us in the most tragic of circumstances in an unnecessary and unprovoked attack.”

Her husband Heath Hollows added: “We don’t hold it against the jury, it’s the system. “We’re just disappointed Wellington streets aren’t any safer than what they were a year ago.

“In the hospital for 17 hours I watched my wife hold Phillip’s hand and the next day she had to sit and watch him die, and it took over an hour and a half, and it’s just so traumatic what’s happened.”

The officer in charge of the case, Detective Senior Sergeant Scott Miller, said police were disappointed with the verdict but insisted it was too early to say whether an appeal would be lodged.

Mr Cottrell, who had brittle bones due to a genetic condition, suffered a shattered skull in the attack in Boulcott St as he walked home from work early on December 10 last year. He died in hospital the next day.

Robinson and Waipuka had been on trial for two weeks before the judge summed up and the jury returned their verdicts after deliberating for about six hours.

Neither of the men’s lawyer’s commented following the verdict.

Waipuka will be sentenced in February.

During their trial prosecutors said both men were involved in the unprovoked attack on Mr Cottrell, punching and kicking him in the early hours of a Saturday morning as he walked home from a night shift.

Waipuka’s lawyer Paul Paino had said his client admitted punching Mr Cottrell once.

Robinson’s lawyer Mike Antunovic said his client was across the other side of the road when the attack happened, and he had not delivered the fatal blow or encouraged the attack.

Mr Cottrell worked for BBC Scotland in Glasgow before emigrating to New Zealand, where his sister lives, in 2006. He worked as the bulletins editor on Radio New Zealand.

In a statement issued following his death, friends and former colleagues from BBC Scotland said: “Phillip was a gentle, kind man with an impish sense of humour.

“He was a brave traveller, forever venturing to new countries and exploring new cultures.

“He leaves behind many, many friends in every corner of the world who will be distraught to learn of his loss.

“Phillip’s friends here in Scotland are devastated at his senseless death. Our thoughts are with his friends and colleagues in New Zealand and, most of all, with his family.”