Leonard Nattrass-Berquist and Beauen Wallace-Loretz on trial at the Auckland High Court. (Photo credit: Chris Skelton/Aukland Now)
Two young men on trial for killing an older gay man say their victim was “obsessed” with them.
Leonard Nattrass-Berquist and Beauen Wallace-Loretz (pictured) have been accused of murdering 54-year-old Ihaia “Sunny” Gillman-Harris with a baseball bat inside an Auckland motel room after he allegedly offered them $1,000 for sex.
The incident happened in December 2014. According to court documents, Gillman-Harris met and exchanged texts with the teens, who were both 18 at the time, just days before his death. He offered them rides around town and would buy them cigarettes and alcohol. At some point, he suggested the three of them get a motel room together.
“Sunny’s obsession was to get those boys in the motel,” the young men’s lawyer, Murray Gibson, told a New Zealand court this week. “He hardly knew these boys at all. He’d only known them for a matter of days. (It was) an obsessional approach to isolating them, getting them on their own.”
A few days after Christmas, Gillman-Harris booked a motel room for himself, Nattrass-Berquist and Beauen Wallace-Loretz. While checking in, he told the front desk clerk the young men were his nephews. According to prosecutor David Johnstone, “He anticipated consensual, albeit paid-if-necessary, sexual relations. (The two accused) were aware of what he wanted.”
Johnstone added that Gillman-Harris a “non-confrontation, not aggressive man” who were merely seeking “to befriend these two defendants.”
But the young men argue otherwise. While they admit to assaulting Gillman-Harris, they say it was in self-defense after he tried to rape one of them once they got up to the room.
Prosecutors, however, believe the killing was premeditated. A series of texts between the two young men appear to show them discussing a plan to attack and possibly kill Gillman-Harris. In one of the messages, Nattrass-Berquist tells Wallace-Loretz he’s going to “fuck a gay cunt up.” Another makes reference to bringing a baseball bat to the motel room.
Gibson argued that his clients never had access to a baseball bat, though prosecutors said CCTV cameras at the motel show Wallace-Loretz sneaking what appears to be a bat into the room.
The trial continues.