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Man Pleads Guilty To Murder Of Korean Backpacker

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Greymouth, Oct 14 NZPA - One of two men charged with murdering a Korean backpacker on the West Coast five years ago, today surprised a depositions hearing in Greymouth District Court by pleading guilty.

The 31-year-old former Westport man, who has name suppression, dropped the bombshell at the start of the second day of the hearing into the murder of Jae Hyeon Kim, 25, near Charleston south of Westport, in October 2003.

The man was remanded in custody to be sentenced in the High Court at Wellington on December 6.

Yesterday, the court was told how two German words were uttered as Mr Kim was throttled and murdered while hitchhiking down the West Coast.

Jointly charged with the man who today admitted the murder is Shannon Brent Flewellen, 29, a Nelson fisherman. A third man, who has a blanket suppression order including the nature of the charge he faces, was dealt with yesterday afternoon.

He denied the charge and was remanded to appear in the High Court at Christchurch on November 21 for a pre-trial conference.

At the start of the hearing yesterday crown prosecutor Chris Lange alleged that Mr Kim's killers dug a hole and buried him in a remote site. The body has not been recovered, despite a week-long police search of the Four Mile River bridge site, just south of Charleston township.

Flewellen sat handcuffed in the dock, while the other two defendants sat with their lawyers but were flanked by police reinforcements.

Mr Lange said Flewellen and his associates were travelling from Westport to Runanga in October 2003, when they spotted Mr Kim hitchhiking near the Four Mile River.

"They turned their vehicle around and went back to Westport to drop off a dog, and when they came back Mr Kim was still at the bridge and they picked him up."

The Crown alleged that the vehicle stopped just before the bridge and Flewellen and an associate got out to retrieve some cannabis from the bush. When they returned they pretended the vehicle had become stuck.

Flewellen, Mr Kim and another man got out to try to free the vehicle.

"This is when Flewellen attacked Mr Kim," Mr Lange said.

"He attacked him from the back. He put him in a choker hold and put pressure on his throat.

"An associate held Mr Kim's arms down and said `nein blut' -- which means `no blood."'

Mr Lange alleged that Flewellen then put his foot on Mr Kim's throat to ensure he had stopped breathing.

The victim's body was then taken into the bush. His backpack was later retrieved from the scene of the killing and the contents destroyed.

"Later, Flewellen and his associate went back to the scene, dug a hole, where they buried the victim."

Mr Lange said the Crown had 25 witnesses, including members of the dead man's family, and associates of the defendants who would tell the court of admissions to the crime that they had made to various people.

No forensic evidence would be presented because a body had not been located and the vehicle the defendants travelled in had been destroyed.

Unlike yesterday, there were no armed police guarding the Greymouth courthouse today although a police dog and handler continued to roam nearby streets and everyone who entered the court was scanned by a metal detector and underwent bag searches.

Police said the extra security was a precaution because white supremacist followers had turned up at a previous court appearance, in Westport.



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