The man who stabbed teenager Maaka Hakiwai and his brother after an attempt by his mates to steal a baseball cap will spend no less than nine and a half years behind bars.
Josh Horton – who was 18 at the time – was found not guilty of murder by a Melbourne jury in a verdict that disgusted the devastated family of the boys.
Maternal grandfather of the slain teenager Allan Priester said he would never accept Horton had committed any crime other than cold-blooded murder.
Joshua Horton pleaded not guilty to murder and instead was sentenced on Friday for manslaughter
Makaa’s basketball top after being stabbed to death on Grand Final Day 2019
Maaka Hakiwai (right), 17, was killed and his ‘best friend’ brother Nate (left) was left fighting for life
HOW 16 SECONDS COST A BOY HIS LIFE
Maaka Hakiwai likely never knew what hit him.
The 17-year old had been held in a headlock when his killer, Joshua Horton, speared him from behind with an upward thrust of his blade.
The knife penetrated his liver before slicing through his aorta – the largest artery in the human body.
Maaka managed to stagger about 10 metres down the road before he bled out on the footpath.
Moments earlier he had been waiting for a bus with his older brother Nate, who was stabbed twice in the leg by Horton just seconds after he killed his brother.
Nate had tried to kick out at his attacker, but instead copped two stab wounds to the upper thigh, severing a major artery in his leg.
He was lucky not to have bled out too.
The whole bloody affair had taken just 16 seconds.
‘We all have choices in life and I’m sure the offender knows the difference between right and wrong and good and evil. He made a choice that day, he chose evil,’ he said.
‘It was his choice and he chose to murder our youngest grandchild Maaka and seriously injure Nathaniel. It was brutal, grotesquely violent attack upon two innocent boys. And they call that manslaughter.’
Horton was sentenced on Friday on the lesser charge of manslaughter to a total of thirteen-and-a-half years – which includes two-and-a-half years of a seven-year sentence for stabbing Maaka’s brother.
In March, the jury found Horton guilty of the manslaughter of Maaka and intentionally causing serious injury to his older brother.
In coming to their verdict, the jury found that Horton must not have known his two mates – Chol Kur, 21, and a 17-year-old who cannot be named due to his age – had tried to rob the boys.
Prosecutors had hit Horton with not one, but two counts of murder in the hope of securing a conviction.
The second count had acted as an alternative that would have allowed the jury to find Horton guilty if they accepted he knew about the plan to rob the pair.
The jury had heard the youths had been cruising about town looking to ‘drill’ someone, when they spotted the brothers waiting for the bus.
Horton had been seated directly between his two younger mates when they had the conversation about robbing the pair.
Horton’s barrister Sam Norton had argued his client only intervened when he saw his mate go to ground.
He told the jury Horton had expressed remorse for the stabbings and had asked a friend ‘which one’ when he was told one of the boys had died.
Maaka Hakiwai (right), 17, was killed and his ‘best friend’ brother Nate (left) were ambushed while waiting for a bus
Hundreds gathered to farewell Maaka after he was stabbed to death while waiting for a bus with his brother Nate
Moments from tragedy: the Hakiwai brothers walk to the bus stop where they would be attacked over the baseball cap Nathaniel was wearing
Had the jury been told about Horton’s ‘proven track record’ of violent criminal history the jury may well have acted differently.
Under the law, a person accused of murder is entitled to have their criminal history hidden from a jury in the hope of obtaining a fair trial.
Horton had spent his short life as a brazen, dimwitted and drug addled thug with a history of senseless violence and armed robberies.
One robbery saw him don a balaclava and menace workers at a fast food outlet while wielding a hammer.
Doctors had described Horton as a bully, who had spent his life attempting to pass off a false notion that he was actually tough.
He had been an unemployed deadbeat already serving a good behaviour bond at the time of committing the stabbing attacks.
But Mr Norton told the jury Horton had no intention of assisting in the robbery and only wanted to help his mates, whom he believed were at risk of injury.
He told the jury Horton said nothing before stabbing the boys, indicating he was not in on the plan to rob them of the cap.
‘He doesn’t make any demands. He doesn’t try to grab anything,’ he said.
Mr Norton further claimed that he had already fled when his co-offenders took the hat off the critically injured Nate.
‘He stays in the car,’ he told the jury.
‘It’s only when (his mate) gets knocked to the ground.’
Mr Norton said that alone ought pose a reasonable enough doubt for them to acquit his client.
He was right.
Nate Hakiwai attended his brother’s funeral just days after being almost stabbed to death by Horton. He expressed a deep hatred for his brother’s killer during his recent trial
Haunting footage from the scene showed paramedics working on one of the brothers as he lay in a pool of his own blood on the quiet suburban street
Maaka was able to stumble down the footpath before he fell and bled out
In sentencing Horton on Friday, Supreme Court of Victoria Justice Andrew Tinney described the weapon Horton used to kill the boy as no ordinary kitchen knife.
‘It was a weapon,’ he said.
Justice Tinney described the attack as ‘unforgivable’ and ‘senseless mayhem’ that fell just short of the charge of murder.
In coming to his sentence, Justice Tinney said he accepted Horton had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the injury charges before being put on trial for murder, which earned him a ‘discount’.
He further accepted Horton was a young offender who suffered a troubled childhood and further stress while awaiting sentence in Victoria’s Covid-19 affected jails.
However, he did not accept Horton had shown a skerrick of remorse and regarded his moral culpability for the crime as high.
‘I’m not really satisfied now that you are truly remorseful for your crime,’ Justice Tinney said.
Horton had been on a cocktail of the deadly drug ice and Xanax – a powerful sedative – when he committed the crime.
The killer didn’t know if he had killed one or both of the boys.
Maaka Hakiwai didn’t stand a chance when his killer, Joshua Horton, charged at him with a knife and fatally stabbed him
The family of Maaka Hakiwai (pictured top) delivered a series of victim impact statements describing their devastation at the loss of Maaka
He told his mates, who swiped the hat off Nate before making their escape, that he couldn’t believe he had just ‘shanked’ them.
He later claimed he couldn’t remember what he had done – an assertion Justice Tinney dismissed as a lie.
Justice Tinney acknowledged no sentence he could hand down would ever satisfy the family of Horton’s victims.
The judge condemned Horton for the attack and dismissed his excuse that he had acted to help his mates rather than participate in the robbery.
‘You stabbed this helpless and defenceless person in the abdomen,’ Justice Tinney said. ‘In no way were you acting in defence of your friends.’
Only good fortune and quick medical attention had saved Nathaniel from the same fate as his brother, Justice Tinney said.
‘It cannot be forgotten that you attacked not one, but two distinct individuals,’ he said.
Horton has already spent 633 days behind bars.
His co-accused, Kur, was to be sentenced on Friday afternoon, but will now be sentenced at a later date following revelations he too has been described by a doctor as a remorseless thug with no empathy for his victims.
The court heard Kur had hoped to walk free today with time already served.