Renee Kara O'Brien was 14 years and nine
months old when she beat Kenneth Pigott, 60, to death in Waitara, in
2002. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment
with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years. Her co-offenders - Puti
Irene Health Maxwell and Kararina Makere Te Tauna, both 14 - were
convicted of manslaughter.
Kenneth Pigott killed by a 14 year old for his
14 year old Renee Kara O’Brien set out on the
evening of March 10 2002 with the sole intention of stealing a car.
Finding 60 year old grandfather Kenneth Pigott asleep in his
four-wheel drive, she struck him in the head eight times with a hammer
and threw his dead body into the Waitara River.
Leaving her friend’s Aunt’s house, Renee Kara
O’Brien went looking for a car to steal. Returning to her home at 3am,
Renee told her father that she was going out again. She hooked up with
friends, Kararaina Makere Te Rauna and Puti Irene Heather Maxwell,
they set off to find a car and drink some alcohol.
60 year old Kenneth Pigott had also been drinking
with friends at a local Waitara pub on the evening of March 10.
Falling asleep in his Four-wheel-drive, he was woken by Renee O’Brien
and her friends.
While Kararaina distracted Mr. Pigott, Renee
produced a hammer. She smashed the man over the head eight times
before he fall to ground. The other two girls kicked him before they
all dragged him over the stop bank and into the river.
After dumping the body, they stole Kenneth Pigott’s
car and took it joy riding around the streets of Waitara, visiting
friends and even tooting as they drove past the police station.
After dropping Puti Maxwell at home the other two
girls headed toward Palmerston North, finally abandoning the vehicle
several hours away from Waitara north of Wanganui.
Kenneth Pigott body was found the following
afternoon on the 11th March 2002.
All three girls were arrested and have since
appeared in court: Kararaine Makere Te Rauna, pled guilty to
manslaughter on 26th August and has been sentenced to 8 years and 9
Puti Irene Heather Maxwell pled guilty to
manslaughter on 11/09/02.
Renee Kara O’Brien was charged with murder and was
found guilty only three hours after the jury left the court. She hung
her head during the trail and hid her face throughout the proceeding.
She was remanded in custody.
Girl of 15 convicted of murder
September 11, 2002
A 15-year-old girl wept in court yesterday as a New
Plymouth jury found her guilty of murdering Waitara man Kenneth
Justice John Priestley remanded Renee Kara O'Brien
in custody for sentencing on October 7.
O'Brien, whose name had been suppressed until the
verdict, was jointly charged with two other girls, who have since
pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Puti Irene Heather Maxwell, 14, changed her plea on
Monday, and Kararaina Makere Te Rauna, 14, who has since been
sentenced to eight years and nine months' jail, pleaded guilty a
fortnight ago. Maxwell will be sentenced on September 30.
Mr Pigott's body was found in the Waitara River on
the afternoon of March 11.
In his closing address, crown prosecutor Tim Brewer
told the jury that O'Brien was far removed from the average
14-year-old. O'Brien - who was 14 when 60-year-old Mr Pigott was
killed but had since turned 15 - was streetwise and older than her
years, he said.
She had not been to school since last year, was
used to roaming the streets late at night and was an experienced
Her view of life was such that on the night Mr
Pigott was killed she left the house of a friend's aunt planning to
steal a car.
When she got home at 3am, she told her father - who
had woken up - that she was going out again and he allowed that.
Mr Brewer said a person had to be "pretty far
removed from the average 14-year-old" to have the sort of
determination needed to strike an adult male repeatedly on the head
with a hammer and then rope friends into helping to remove his body.
After dragging Mr Pigott's body into the river,
O'Brien got into his car.
Mr Brewer said that she had shed a few tears
according to a 13-year-old witness, but they were soon gone.
She then drove past the police station, tooted the
car's horn and laughed.
In a video interview with Detective Constable
Stella Howard, O'Brien had told lie after lie.
"You must have regard to Renee's age, but don't be
misled by it," Mr Brewer told the jury.
The jurors should have no doubt that she hammered
Mr Pigott into unconsciousness, and it did not matter whether he died
from his head injuries or drowned - either way she killed him.
The difference between murder and manslaughter was
intent, said Mr Brewer.
"If, when Renee hammered Mr Pigott, she knew that
what she was doing might very well kill him, but went ahead and took
that risk anyway, then that is murder."
O'Brien sat through Mr Brewer's speech with her
face hidden behind her hands. She also hid her face during her own
lawyer's closing address.
Patrick Mooney told the jury that his client was
guilty of manslaughter but not murder.
"Did she intend to kill? I suggest to you the
evidence comes nowhere near that."
Mr Mooney told the jury it was not a question of
probabilities and it must be sure.
"You have to decide what was going through [her]
mind, but in doing that you have to decide what was going through
[her] drunken mind."
The jury took just under three hours to reach its
verdict, returning once to ask a legal question.
Guilty teen taken sobbing from court
September 10, 2002
A 15-year-old girl was led sobbing from the court
after being found guilty of the murder of a Waitara man in March this
Renee Kara O'Brien was the only remaining teenager
on trial at the High Court in New Plymouth for murder after two
14-year-old girls had earlier pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of
The 60-year-old truck driver's body was discovered
by the Waitara River. He had suffered severe head injuries.
The prosecution closed their case saying O'Brien
had already admitted hitting Pigott a few times with the intention of
taking his motor vehicle. The prosecutor told the jury she was guilty
if when she hit Pigott she did not care whether he died or not.
But the defence told the jury that O'Brien never
meant to kill Pigott and the idea was to knock him out, not to kill
The defence acknowledged the girl played a role in
Pigott's death, but urged the jury to bring a manslaughter verdict.
Puti Maxwell, 14, also known as Ooshi, and
Kararaina Te Ruana, 14, known as Hubba, both earlier pleaded guilty to
Pigott's manslaughter. But the judge asked the jury not to take that
Pigott had been asleep in his four wheel drive
vehicle after a night at the pub when the three girls, who had also
been drinking, came across him. They stole his wallet and cellphone
but really wanted his vehicle. O'Brien hit him with the hammer while
Te Rauna distracted him. Maxwell and Te Rauna kicked Pigott after he
fell to the ground and then helped O'Brien drag him across the road,
onto the grass and over the stop bank into the river.
The teenagers then drove around Waitara in his
vehicle, visiting friends and at once stage tooted as they passed the
Te Rauna and O'Brien dropped off Maxwell and headed
to Palmerston North.
The ringleader now faces a mandatory life sentence.
Pigott's eldest son Dean says while the verdict
does not bring back their father at least justice has been seen to be
"There's no one free to walk around that got away
with it," he said.
Kararaine Makere Te Rauna, pled guilty to manslaughter
and was sentenced to 8 years and 9 months jail.
Kenneth Pigott, 60.