Phillip Goffe was a “caring” man, who had a love of charity, and helping out those less fortunate. Photo / Supplied
The son of a man killed by a single punch at home in front of him, his mother and brother, has told the teenager responsible his “caring” father would have wanted to help him overcome his “demons”.
Emanuel Unasa, 18, was yesterday sentenced to 10 and a half months’ home detention for the manslaughter of 60-year-old Phillip Goffe, who broke up an altercation at his Manurewa home to help his son.
Speaking during an emotional and tearful sentencing at Auckland High Court, one of Goffe’s three sons, Jared, directly addressed Unasa, saying he was “scarred” by the memories.
As he read out his words, full of love for his father and heartbreak that he was no longer around, there was hardly a dry eye in the room. Audible cries came from both families packed into each side of the public gallery.
“Hearing the cracking sound of my father’s head hitting the pavement, where I spent many of my days growing up and playing with my father in the front of our house,” said Jared, 25, supported by friends and whānau, including his mother Elizabeth.
“Receiving the news in the late hours of the morning that my father would likely die from his injuries.
“Hearing the sound of my father as he slowly dies without dignity, all because of one action that some person decided to do.
“I never got to say any final words to my father before he passed away. Mr Unasa’s actions robbed me of my ability to at least say goodbye to my father.”
About 12.30am on February 13, Unasa was drinking with three others at Laurie Gibbons Park.
The noise upset Goffe’s 20-year-old son Lee, who was trying to sleep, and he confronted the group over the fence.
The group encouraged Lee to fight, but Goffe’s family intervened, trying to de-escalate the situation and saying that their son was mentally unwell and did not mean what he was saying.
Goffe’s wife ushered Lee back into the house, as he and his other son Jared told the group to leave.
But they shook the gate and threw punches in the air gesturing for a fight.
Unasa and another jumped the fence and advanced. Lee returned, confronting them a second time.
Again, his family members stopped them from fighting.
Two others jumped the fence and tried to remove Unasa and the other person from the property.
They retreated, and Goffe spoke to them about coming onto his property without his permission.
Unasa reacted aggressively, punching Goffe in the head.
Goffe fell backwards onto the concrete driveway, hitting his head and losing consciousness briefly.
He was taken to hospital and put on life support, but died five days later from his injuries.
Unasa was found near the scene soon after and told police, “I knocked him out”, and pointed to Goffe as he was being led to an ambulance.
In his victim impact statement, Jared said his late father worked hard to care for his whānau, had a love for charity work, and would often bring into their home those less fortunate, people who were homeless and families escaping persecution and violence.
“I cannot understand how my father would be rewarded with his efforts by men trespassing on our property, asked numerous times to stop attacking our family, and ultimately decide to take the life of a man that would have rather helped them overcome their demons instead of inflicting pain and suffering upon law-abiding citizens.”
Jared is to next year graduate from university, the first in his whānau, and which his father fought “financially and emotionally” for him to achieve.
“He will never get to experience and share in the joy that I will on the day as I walk across the graduation stage.”
They had a very close relationship, many considering him a “doppelganger in a younger body”.
“I will never get to hug my dad, and say I love him anymore.
“I will never get to purchase a home for my father, for him to meet his future grandchildren, and plenty more milestones for me to show my appreciation for how much I love him.”
Jared said losing their father had left the family in poverty. His mother and brother were nearly homeless at one point, living on welfare and food parcels, from organisations his father supported.
“I have no words to describe the emotional and physical stress that my current vocabulary affords me. A single action can cause such pain and anguish to a family.
“Christmas, one of the happiest times fo the year for many Kiwi families is undoubtedly going to be a terrible time seeing one empty seat at the table.”
Unasa, who was 17 when he punched Goffe, read a letter to Goffe’s family to express his remorse, often pausing, as tears flowed down his cheeks.
“I want to apologise for my actions, that have taken someone special away from you,” he said.
“If I had one wish, it would be to go back in time, and leave the area, before things got out of hand. I hope one day you can all find a place in your hearts to forgive me.”
His mother also addressed the Goffe whānau.
“My heart is filled with sadness and guilt, for the taking of a life that makes your family complete,” she said.
“I could never comprehend what your family is feeling.”
Halfway through her statement, Goffe’s widow Elizabeth left the courtroom, visibly emotional.
Defence counsel Kate Leys said Unasa was genuinely remorseful, and became tearful when the issue was raised.
“He wishes he could wind back the clock, so what happened to Mr Goffe never happened.”
Unasa had undertaken drug and alcohol counselling, an anger management course, a cultural programme to reconnect with his Samoan roots, and developed a safety plan to recognise if his behaviour proceeded in a similar way.
Crown Prosecutor Aaron Perkins QC said Jared’s victim impact statement was of the “highest quality”, and provides “all one needs to who about who Phillip Goffe was”.
“It is clear his loss is profound, not only to his family, but the community.”
Justice Grant Powell said it was clear Unasa’s actions had “devastated” the family.
“The hurt is understandably very, very raw. You, by your action that night, have taken away their beloved husband, father and friend.”
In sentencing Unasa to 10 and a half months’ home detention, Powell took into account his age, remorse, programmes he’d already undertaken, and guilty plea, which came at the earliest possible moment.
“His actions were plainly impacted by youth,” Powell said.
“A single spontaneous wanton act illustrating the impulsivity of youth.”
Unasa was regarded as a low risk of reoffending, and imprisonment would serve no rehabilitation purpose, “more likely to make things worse”, Powell said.
After Unasa had left the courtroom, Powell was visibly emotionally shaken, and had to pause momentarily, as he spoke to both families.
“I acknowledge the loss the Goffe family has suffered, and I also acknowledge the support Unasa has received from his whānau.
“Not just today when he is in court, he needs your support every day. You need to support every one of your whānau, to prevent a tragedy like this happening again.”
– additional reporting Chelsea Boyle
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