Michael Choy (40) was going about his contract business on the evening of 12
September 2001, delivering pizzas to a home in Chantel Place, Papakura,
Auckland, on behalf of Pizza Hut, when he became the victim of six kids aged
between 17 and 12 years. After parking up the driveway he was supposed to be
delivering the pizzas to, some of these kids approached him and while they
attracted his attention, another from the group hit him over the head with a
It was in fact these kids who had phoned Pizza Hut. They had given a false
address and had then lain in wait to ambush whoever showed up with the pizzas.
The previous week a woman from KFC had almost become their victim. However the
one charged with using the baseball bat had refused to hit a woman. She had
The kids took the pizzas and his money, and left him lying on the ground
suffering very serious head injuries. He was able to get to a nearby house, but
the people inside didn't realise what was wrong. While they were ringing the
police to report this (rather than risk opening the door to some unknown
potential attacker), Choy had begun trying to get to his father's house about
800 metres away.
The police duly found his car parked up the long dark driveway to the house he
was supposed to deliver the pizzas to (but the householders had not ordered any
pizzas), and at 4am they contacted the missing Choy's father. He was found
unconscious on his father's doorstep then. However, he died in hospital that
night (13 September 2001).
Several days later, six young people had been remanded in custody for the
murder. They included a 12-year-old boy, a 14-year-old boy, two boys aged 15,
one boy aged 16, and a 17-year-old woman. This began what might be one of New
Zealand's more well-known murder cases. Three other young people also found
themselves caught up in the case on conspiracy and robbery charges.
The youngest child, Bailey Junior Kurariki, aged 12 years and four months at the
time of the killing, had become New Zealand's youngest killer. The previous
youngest person had apparently been aged 13 years and six months old at the time
of a 1948 offence.
The Depositions Hearing was held in February 2002, with the trial beginning on
22 July 2002. On 24 August 2002, two of the aforementioned six were found guilty
of murder and the other four of manslaughter. This was the day before Tanya set
off on her Contiki bus trip around Europe. It also marked the point where the
image of the tiny seemingly angelic-looking Kurariki struggling to see over the
top of the wall of the dock, hit the media. New Zealanders have seen this
picture a great many times since - and it still shocks.
Sentencing was set down to begin on 13 September 2002. So as Tanya slept off her
jetlag here in Palmerston North throughout the morning, and in due course stuck
her holiday photos into her new photo album during the afternoon, the saga of
the Choy murder was being played out in an Auckland courtroom. The media was
again completely focused on the sentencing and the sight of 13-year-old Kurariki
again peering out over the wall of the dock.
The next day (Saturday, 14 September 2002), as Tanya met with friends and
relatives at Dannevirke, before driving home to Rotorua, NZ Herald readers were
learning that the Choy family had described the little killers as "primates" and
"scumbags". Meanwhile one of the many Defence lawyers involved pointed out that
"they are not inherently bad kids", as he/she somewhat optimistically pleaded
that they be given light sentences.
On Monday, 16 September 2002 - the day Tanya's body was found - the six received
the following sentences:
1. Bailey Junior Kurariki (13) - 7 years in prison for manslaughter.
2. Alexander Tokorua Peihopa (16) - life in prison for murder, 5 years for
aggravated robbery, 3 years for attempted robbery and 2½ years for theft.
3. Whatarangi Rawiri (17) - life for murder, 6 years for aggravated robbery and
4 for attempted aggravated robbery.
4. Phillip Kaukasi (17) - 12 years for manslaughter, 7 for aggravated robbery
and 4 for attempted aggravated robbery.
5. Riki Rapira (16) - 9 years for manslaughter, 6 for aaggravated robbery.
6. Joe Kaukasi (15) - 8½ years for manslaughter and 6 yyears for aggravated
All sentences were to be served concurrently, and those imprisoned for life must
serve ten years before they can apply for parole