Man sentenced for shooting death of son

Father ended 'reign of terror' with bullet.

Father ended 'reign of terror' with bullet.

Police at the scene of the shooting last year. Hawke's Bay Today picture

A MOHAKA man who shot his son dead has avoided life imprisonment for murder, with his lawyer successfully arguing that her client was a battered defendant.

Dean Cole, 63, killed his son Blair, 42, with a single bullet to the chest on the morning of October 12 last year.

His son was sitting on his bed reading mail when Cole shot and killed him from the doorway with a borrowed .22 rifle.

He told a 111 operator that he had intended not to kill him but to put him in a wheelchair so he could not carry out his physical threats to his family.

Yesterday Cole was sentenced by Justice Helen Cull in the High Court at Gisborne to 12 years imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of six years.

That sentence makes Cole the ninth person in New Zealand to be granted a reprieve from the presumptive sentence of life imprisonment for murder, allowed after a 2002 law change.

Other cases in which it was avoided involved mercy killing, battered defendants who had been subject to severe and prolonged abuse, offenders with a major psychotic illness, someone who was not the principal offender, a failed suicide pact and an extremely young offender.

Sentence sought

Arguing for the reprieve, counsel Susan Hughes QC sought a sentence of nine years with no minimum term. She said Cole’s circumstances could be likened to two cases involving battered defendants: Rachel Rihia, who was sentenced to 10 years in October 2012 for the murder of her husband; and Jacqueline Wihongi, who was jailed for eight years in September 2010 for stabbing her partner.

Cole was suffering two long-term diagnosed mental illnesses: bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia, she said.

His health was destabilised at the time by the stress of having nursed his terminally-ill mother for two years before her death in 2015 and by having reluctantly allowed his son Blair to live with him in July 2016.

Blair Cole had assaulted every member of the family and was estranged because of it. He had once broken his brother’s jaw. The pair had not communicated since.

Dean Cole, who chose to self-medicate his illness with marijuana and alcohol, was trying to cope in isolation with his son, who also suffered mental illness and whose violence towards him and other family members was often fuelled by methamphetamine and alcohol.

Blair was obsessed with a perception that his father had ripped him off over the family estate after his grandmother’s death.

Blair regularly abused the older man, psychologically and physically. He called him useless and pathetic and threatened to kill him, Ms Hughes said.

The night before the shooting, Blair knocked down a door, throttled his father, threatened to kill him and bury him in a swamp and said he would take over the property.

Threats

He threatened to take to his brother with a hammer and that he would deal to his sister when she visited at Christmas.
Dean Cole did not sleep that night. In the morning he got bank documents to show Blair how the estate was allocated but he knew it would not help. No rational discussion up until then had changed Blair’s mindset.

Cole’s solution to the problem was not one a person in their right mind might have arrived at but Cole was not in his right mind, Ms Hughes said. If he was, he would have found another solution.

He also knew the pattern of domestic violence. You might not get the bash today or tomorrow but you would get it sooner or later. Battered defendants did not have to be women, Ms Hughes said.

Crown prosecutor Steve Manning said while Dean Cole’s situation was sad and he had indeed been labouring under considerable pressures, his circumstances did not meet the exceptionally high threshold required to avoid life imprisonment.

Cases that granted that level of mercy were rare.

Even if the court were minded to step back from imposing a life sentence, the offence still warranted a minimum non-parole term.

Cole’s culpability was at the highest end, even given his mental health issues, Mr Manning said. He had essentially executed his son at a time when Blair had not actually issued any threat or violence.

He was not acting in the heat of a moment and had not suffered the same degree of extraordinary abuse as battered defendants Wihongi or Rihia.

A planned act

Dean Cole had planned the shooting, borrowing a rifle a few days earlier.

He drove to town that morning to get the bank documents. He had time to think. He was calm.

Blair was sitting on his bed mid-morning reading mail, oblivious to his father aiming the gun from the doorway less than a metre and a half away.

Justice Cull called the case a tragedy. She noted a psychiatric report showed Cole was in a manic state, even a month before Blair went to live with him. He was likely suffering a chronic relapsing depressive illness that caused cognitive distortions and impaired his ability to act rationally.

Blair’s threats were escalating. Cole had become desperate as to how to protect himself and his family. He bolted his bedroom door at nights and carried a knife.

Relevant to and corroborative of the psychiatrist’s opinion were Dean Cole’s frank statements to a 111 operator, who he phoned immediately after he realised the wound he had inflicted was fatal.

Dean Cole told the call-taker he had not intended to murder his son, but had intended to “wheelchair” him so that he would be disabled from carrying out his threats.

Dean Cole said he was sick of his son’s behaviour. Blair had been terrorising the family for 22 years. The family had been to people and asked for help but never got any, including from mental health services. He had now ended the misery.

Setting a starting point of 14 years, Justice Cull noted aggravating features as the use of a weapon, premeditation and the extent of harm.

She took into account the provocation, Dean Cole’s mental health problems, attestations from family members as to Blair Cole’s violence and their pleas for leniency.

The sentence was discounted by two years for Dean Cole’s guilty plea and genuine remorse.

The judge directed that Dean Cole must serve at least six years.

As he was led from the dock, Dean Cole called to Justice Cull that he would “do every day for his son”.

A MOHAKA man who shot his son dead has avoided life imprisonment for murder, with his lawyer successfully arguing that her client was a battered defendant.

Dean Cole, 63, killed his son Blair, 42, with a single bullet to the chest on the morning of October 12 last year.

His son was sitting on his bed reading mail when Cole shot and killed him from the doorway with a borrowed .22 rifle.

He told a 111 operator that he had intended not to kill him but to put him in a wheelchair so he could not carry out his physical threats to his family.

Yesterday Cole was sentenced by Justice Helen Cull in the High Court at Gisborne to 12 years imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of six years.

That sentence makes Cole the ninth person in New Zealand to be granted a reprieve from the presumptive sentence of life imprisonment for murder, allowed after a 2002 law change.

Other cases in which it was avoided involved mercy killing, battered defendants who had been subject to severe and prolonged abuse, offenders with a major psychotic illness, someone who was not the principal offender, a failed suicide pact and an extremely young offender.

Sentence sought

Arguing for the reprieve, counsel Susan Hughes QC sought a sentence of nine years with no minimum term. She said Cole’s circumstances could be likened to two cases involving battered defendants: Rachel Rihia, who was sentenced to 10 years in October 2012 for the murder of her husband; and Jacqueline Wihongi, who was jailed for eight years in September 2010 for stabbing her partner.

Cole was suffering two long-term diagnosed mental illnesses: bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia, she said.

His health was destabilised at the time by the stress of having nursed his terminally-ill mother for two years before her death in 2015 and by having reluctantly allowed his son Blair to live with him in July 2016.

Blair Cole had assaulted every member of the family and was estranged because of it. He had once broken his brother’s jaw. The pair had not communicated since.

Dean Cole, who chose to self-medicate his illness with marijuana and alcohol, was trying to cope in isolation with his son, who also suffered mental illness and whose violence towards him and other family members was often fuelled by methamphetamine and alcohol.

Blair was obsessed with a perception that his father had ripped him off over the family estate after his grandmother’s death.

Blair regularly abused the older man, psychologically and physically. He called him useless and pathetic and threatened to kill him, Ms Hughes said.

The night before the shooting, Blair knocked down a door, throttled his father, threatened to kill him and bury him in a swamp and said he would take over the property.

Threats

He threatened to take to his brother with a hammer and that he would deal to his sister when she visited at Christmas.
Dean Cole did not sleep that night. In the morning he got bank documents to show Blair how the estate was allocated but he knew it would not help. No rational discussion up until then had changed Blair’s mindset.

Cole’s solution to the problem was not one a person in their right mind might have arrived at but Cole was not in his right mind, Ms Hughes said. If he was, he would have found another solution.

He also knew the pattern of domestic violence. You might not get the bash today or tomorrow but you would get it sooner or later. Battered defendants did not have to be women, Ms Hughes said.

Crown prosecutor Steve Manning said while Dean Cole’s situation was sad and he had indeed been labouring under considerable pressures, his circumstances did not meet the exceptionally high threshold required to avoid life imprisonment.

Cases that granted that level of mercy were rare.

Even if the court were minded to step back from imposing a life sentence, the offence still warranted a minimum non-parole term.

Cole’s culpability was at the highest end, even given his mental health issues, Mr Manning said. He had essentially executed his son at a time when Blair had not actually issued any threat or violence.

He was not acting in the heat of a moment and had not suffered the same degree of extraordinary abuse as battered defendants Wihongi or Rihia.

A planned act

Dean Cole had planned the shooting, borrowing a rifle a few days earlier.

He drove to town that morning to get the bank documents. He had time to think. He was calm.

Blair was sitting on his bed mid-morning reading mail, oblivious to his father aiming the gun from the doorway less than a metre and a half away.

Justice Cull called the case a tragedy. She noted a psychiatric report showed Cole was in a manic state, even a month before Blair went to live with him. He was likely suffering a chronic relapsing depressive illness that caused cognitive distortions and impaired his ability to act rationally.

Blair’s threats were escalating. Cole had become desperate as to how to protect himself and his family. He bolted his bedroom door at nights and carried a knife.

Relevant to and corroborative of the psychiatrist’s opinion were Dean Cole’s frank statements to a 111 operator, who he phoned immediately after he realised the wound he had inflicted was fatal.

Dean Cole told the call-taker he had not intended to murder his son, but had intended to “wheelchair” him so that he would be disabled from carrying out his threats.

Dean Cole said he was sick of his son’s behaviour. Blair had been terrorising the family for 22 years. The family had been to people and asked for help but never got any, including from mental health services. He had now ended the misery.

Setting a starting point of 14 years, Justice Cull noted aggravating features as the use of a weapon, premeditation and the extent of harm.

She took into account the provocation, Dean Cole’s mental health problems, attestations from family members as to Blair Cole’s violence and their pleas for leniency.

The sentence was discounted by two years for Dean Cole’s guilty plea and genuine remorse.

The judge directed that Dean Cole must serve at least six years.

As he was led from the dock, Dean Cole called to Justice Cull that he would “do every day for his son”.

After sentencing, officer in charge of the case Detective Sergeant Daniel Kirk of Wairoa police told The Gisborne Herald he wanted the public to know police took domestic violence very seriously.

He urged anyone who needed help to go to police before considering taking matters into their own hands. This case clearly illustrated there were never any winners in murder, only losers. The Cole family lost a son and a sibling, and now also faced the long-term incarceration of their father.

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