New Zealand man sentenced to life in prison for murder

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

James Junior Lawrie, 26-year-old, has been sentenced to life in prison at the Auckland High Court for a minimum of 16 years after he killed the Uptown Mini Mart owner 58-year-old Bhagubhai Vaghela on 19 June, 2005.

Vaghela was found dead at the scene by ambulance officers.

Lawrie had entered the store planning on stealing phone cards from the New North Road shop. Instead he shot Vaghela in the chest at point-blank range when he activated the alarm and Lawrie panicked.

Lawrie had pleaded guilty to the charges laid against him even though he could not remember most of the incident. The court was told today by the prosecutor Ross Burns that he had smoked one kilogram of methamphetamine (P) two months prior, which is worth NZ$1 million. The P had fuelled six previous aggravated robberies in the attempt to gain more money for his P habit. Lawrie has had 32 previous convictions of which nine were relating to violence.

Roger Chambers, Lawrie's lawyer, said: "Lawrie's late expression of remorse is genuine, in spite of a pre-sentencing report that said he had no recognition of the trauma he had caused to his victims. He pleaded guilty to some pretty horrendous crimes - and knew that any expression of remorse was likely to be laughed at. For Lawrie, prison is home."

Burns said, "Mr Vaghela had come to New Zealand to enjoy a well-deserved and planned retirement. He was a kind, considerate and gentle man who put his family first." His wife had now gone back to India where she has been ill, while the rest of the family struggle with the death. "His son had said: 'This world is a far worse place without my father being here'," the court was told by Burns.

Lawrie had shown no remorse, Burns said.

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