Poverty, drugs and violence – Hawke’s Bay mobsters’ life stories revealed after shooting

One of two Mongrel Mob members jailed for last year’s shooting spree at a crowded Napier bar first went to prison at the age of 14.

Temihana Henare, 24, had previously been abused in care and spent the rest of his teenage years behind bars with no rehabilitative treatment.

He was released at 20, turned to drugs and alcohol, and joined the Mob at 21.

The life stories of Henare and his co-offender Waka Tither, 27, were outlined to the Napier District Court when the two men were sentenced on Friday.

Both grew up in poverty: the sort of poverty, said sentencing Judge Barbara Morris, that “seeps into every pore”. Both grew up with violence.

But Judge Morris said the effects of the two young men’s upbringing were not sufficient to give them any discount on their jail terms.

She sentenced each of them to jail for five years and 11 months for the shootings, which targeted rival Black Power gang members, injured three people and which the judge said could have led to multiple deaths among members of the public.

“There has to be a very loud message to the community. This sentence has to deter this happening again,” the judge said.

The pair had admitted multiple charges including wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, wounding with reckless disregard, discharging a firearm and unlawful assembly. Tither fired two shots and Henare fired eight from the same .22 semi-automatic rifle.

Judge Morris said Henare’s father was a Mongrel Mob member who left his mother when he was seven. His step-father “had no aroha” for him and was a violent, drug-using alcoholic.

His abused mother also turned to alcohol and became incapable of protecting or looking after the boy.

One night, Henare could hear his mother being beaten up while he was in his bedroom. He looked out to see her with her eyes blackened and swollen shut.

She said: “It’s all right, son. I can handle it.”

Henare was taken away by Oranga Tamariki and went to stay with an aunt but soon ran away to live on the streets. Police found him and he was put in a home where the caregiver was later convicted of abusing children. In an institution later, he was abused by other boys and staff.

The crime which landed Henare in a youth justice facility at age 14 was not described in detail in court, and Youth Court cases generally cannot be reported. But Judge Morris said he stabbed someone with a knife.

Henare’s co-offender Tither had been described by his primary school principal as a “kind and generous” child. Teachers were fond of him, and he was a boy with potential who had made the First XV.

But he also suffered at the hands of an angry, alcoholic father who called him a “fat little thief”. His background normalised violence, gang membership and drugs.

He was using cannabis at the age of 10 and was addicted to methamphetamine by 15.

“You turned to the gangs for a sense of power, success, security, protection and, most importantly, a sense of fitting in,” Judge Morris said.

Tither was given a chance to make a statement to the court.

“I stand here today with the utmost regret and the deepest remorse for my actions,” he said.

“I’d like to apologise firstly to my family, to my partner … and to my children. I’m sorry that (in going to jail) I can’t be there to take them to school, to pick them up from school, to cuddle them when they are hurt.”

He also apologised to the owners of the Thirsty Whale bar in Ahuriri where the shootings occurred, to the people of Napier and to the injured victims – two members of the rival Black Power gang and a security guard who was shot through the genitals by a mis-aimed bullet.

A fourth person came literally a hair’s breadth from being shot in the head. The 19-year-old student teacher felt like she had been punched in the head and suffered headaches for weeks after a bullet passed through her hair.

“I’m sorry for the harm I put them in and the injuries they received,” Tither said.

Police said following Thirsty Whale incident on February 28, 2021 that gang members shooting at each other had become “commonplace”.

There had been 13 reported shootings in the previous eight months, and seven in February 2021.

In late 2020, the Mongrel Mob had roughly 850 members in the Eastern police district and Black Power 300. The clubhouses of both gangs in the Napier suburbs of Tamatea and Maraenui had been shot at in December 2020 and February 2021.

Police said the “mutually agreed rules” between the gangs, such as no open conflict around members of the public and no targeting of family homes, were no longer being observed. Black Power members had come to Henare’s home previously.

In court on Friday, Crown solicitor Steve Manning decried the “childish arguments between young men, some wearing a red uniform and some wearing a blue uniform”, in reference to their gang colours.

Judge Morris said it was an “utter tragedy” that members of both gangs often had whakapapa to the same iwi.

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