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Renee Kara O'BRIEN





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (14) - To steal a car
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 10, 2002
Date of birth: 1987
Victim profile: Kenneth Pigott, 60
Method of murder: Hitting with a hammer
Location: Waitara, Taranaki Region, North Island, New Zealand
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in February 2003, meaning a minimum ten years sentence

The Court of Appeal of New Zealand

The Queen v. Renee Kara O'Brien

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 car

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 months jail.

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 Pigott.

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 drinker.

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 year.

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 Kenneth Pigott.

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 him.

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 into account.

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 police station.

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 done.

"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.


The victim

Kenneth Pigott, 60.



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