Wellington — A violent confrontation in a Wellington High Court courtroom erupted during the first appearance of three individuals charged in connection with the murder of Stokes Valley man Rawiri Wharerau.
The altercation, which lasted around 30 seconds before being broken up by security, spilled onto Molesworth Street, prompting an armed police response and street closure. The confrontation led to at least two injuries, with police and emergency services quickly on the scene.
The public gallery was nearly full, with about 40 attendees divided in support for either the defendants or Wharerau’s family. The brawl was ignited as the defendants were being escorted back to the cells, leading to an uproar from both sides of the gallery.
The confrontation continued outside the courthouse, where police and ambulance staff responded to the disorder and gang-related tensions around 9.40 am.
The charged individuals include a 33-year-old East Coast man and a 22-year-old Stokes Valley woman, both accused of murdering 39-year-old Wharerau at a family member’s 50th birthday party on December 16. They also face charges of attempting to murder Wharerau’s brother, Hemi, and unlawful possession of a firearm.
The 22-year-old woman is also charged with assaulting Hemi Wharerau with a firearm.
A 53-year-old woman is charged with being an accessory after the fact, accused of providing food, transport, and telecommunications support to help the co-defendants avoid arrest.
Despite the chaos, the street was reopened after the crowd dispersed, and the judicial process continued with the defendants’ names suppressed until their next court appearance.
A trial has been tentatively scheduled for March 2025.