Eli Epiha trial: Diane Hunt’s heartbreaking message after murder of slain son Matthew Hunt

Diane Hunt, the mother of slain Constable Matthew Hunt, has released a heartbreaking statement after Eli Epiha pleaded guilty to murder and was found guilty of attempted murder.

As she was surrounded by family and supporters outside the High Court at Auckland following the guilty verdict Epiha, Diane called the trial “harrowing” and a “long time” for justice.

She described the anguish of having to listen to “every possible detail” involved in the murder of her son.

“It’s been a long time to get here.

“The past two-plus weeks have been harrowing for all of us. Listening to what happened to Matthew and Dave on Friday the 19th of June 2020 can’t be described in words.

“The loss of Matt has been made all the more traumatic by having to hear every possible detail that happened that day. Our thoughts are with Dave and his family and we would like to acknowledge his incredible courage.

“We would like to extend our sincere thoughts to the injured member of the public and his family who also became victims on this terrible day.

“We’ve had the most unbelievable support over the past year, and we are forever grateful for the kindness shown to us from hundreds of people across the country. This Friday will mark Matthew’s 30th birthday.

“We miss him terribly. We hope that no other police family will ever have to go through this. And I just want to thank all of Matthew’s friends and their families for all their enormous support of us.

“Matthew loved them and I loved them as much as he did.”

'It's a relief for all of us' – Police Commissioner

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told media at Wellington Airport this afternoon that Constable Goldfinch was relieved the trial had concluded. “I’m really looking forward to seeing himback at work.”

“It’s a relief for all of us,” Coster said. “Our people put themselves in harm’s way every day to keep the public safe.

“We sought feedback on any ideas that they thought would make a difference to frontline safety.”

On arming police officers, Coster said all options had been considered but he didn’t believe that was an option at this point in time.

Epiha, Bracken found guilty

Epiha was today found guilty of attempting to murder another officer during the armed rampage.

The jury has also decided to convict the woman who drove him away from the rampage, despite claims from her lawyers that she was actually a good Samaritan only trying to prevent a “bloodbath” of police colleagues about to be ambushed as they rushed to the scene.

Epiha was found guilty of the attempted murder of Constable David Goldfinch after 11 and a half hours of deliberation over two days following nearly two weeks of testimony. In a somewhat unusual step, Epiha pleaded guilty to the murder of Goldfinch’s partner, Constable Matthew Hunt, several days before his trial began.

Co-defendant Natalie Jane Bracken, 31, was found guilty of being an accessory after the fact to wounding Hunt with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. She started the trial charged with accessory after the fact to murder, but her lawyers successfully argued to the judge that Hunt hadn’t been officially declared dead yet when she drove Epiha from the scene.

Justice Geoffrey Venning is set to sentence Epiha for both crimes — as well as for his guilty plea to dangerous driving resulting in the injury of a bystander that same morning — on October 1.

Epiha indicated before his trial began that’ll he’ll argue at sentencing that Hunt’s murder was the result of recklessness rather than murderous intent.

But the jury’s guilty verdict means it’s been proven he had murderous intent when shooting at Goldfinch, who was hit by four bullets but survived.

The Police Association thanked the jury in the trial for carrying out their difficult duty and finding the defendant guilty of attempting to murder Goldfinch.

Epiha, who had already admitted to the murder of Hunt during the same incident in June 2020, didn’t dispute firing at Goldfinch, but maintained he was trying to scare away the constable.

Association President Chris Cahill says it was particularly harrowing for those connected to the officers, and many others throughout New Zealand, to listen to the facts of this case as they laid bare the extent of the violence perpetrated against officers Hunt and Goldfinch.

“The cold, calculated and deliberate murder of Matt, and the attempted murder of Dave were clearly demonstrated, as was Epiha’s intent and lack of remorse,” Cahill says.

“It was nothing short of disgusting to witness Epiha’s attempt to shift the blame away from himself.”

Cahill says it now rests with the judge to deliver a sentence that reflects the condemnation New Zealanders expect.

“This verdict and future sentencing will not bring back Matt, it won’t heal David’s injuries, and it will not make their fellow officers any safer.

“What it will do, however, is send a very clear message to police officers who take enormous risks in their daily job, that they are valued.”

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