By Ethan Griffiths, Open Justice reporter of
Police have arrested a further five people in connection with the death of a Tauranga man, bringing the total number of defendants charged with murder to eight.
In May last year, police were initially called to a disorder incident involving a group of people at a residential address on Maungatapu Road, but officers arrived to find 51-year-old Mitchell Te Kani dead.
Five men, aged between 24 and 30, were arrested today and charged with murder and will all appear in either Tauranga or Hamilton district courts early this week.
They were also charged with assaulting other people at the scene of Te Kani’s death.
Shortly after the alleged murder in May last year, a man and a woman were previously arrested. The pair were originally charged with aggravated burglary, which was upgraded to murder about a month later.
A third person was arrested last week and also charged with murder.
Also today, police arrested two more people accused of perverting the course of justice.
Police reportedly investigated more than 20 suspects, with a large group of people believed to have been in the vicinity of the property at the time of Te Kani’s death.
Crown prosecutor Sonny Teki-Clark told the court in an earlier hearing that the trial should be set at Hamilton High Court because there are too many defendants to fit in the Tauranga courthouse.
Although Te Kani had no children of his own, an uncle of his said he adored his cousins.
“He was a very active and beloved member of all the communities with which he associated himself.”
The murder investigation is still ongoing, police say, with a trial tentatively scheduled for 2024.
* This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald.