Desert Rd murder: Accessory to killing ‘freaked out’, helped erase traces of Auckland man’s life

A drug syndicate member who helped conceal a dead body near the Desert Rd was so scared of his associates he felt powerless to say “no”, a court heard today.

Gaoxiang Yu helped erase traces of Bao Chang Wang “Ricky” Wang’s life, cleaning out his 103 Symonds St apartment in central Auckland after Wang was murdered in Massey.

The High Court in Auckland heard a methamphetamine syndicate chief ordered the murder after believing Wang sold the boss’s drugs behind his back.

Wang was stabbed many times in suburban West Auckland, then dumped near Rangipo Intake Rd, between Turangi and Waiouru.

But Yu, then 20, only helped out because he was scared of the gang, defence counsel Gary Gotlieb said today.

“He had to. He knew they kill people.”

“He was so freaked out, he was speeding, He was stopped by the police. He was so upset at what had happened.”

But prosecutor Joanne Lee said Yu, now 24, took part in a disgusting and degrading crime.

“He played a key role in facilitating the very effective concealment of a murder by the principals charged.”

After a callous killing, Wang’s body was subjected to indignity, and that indignity was hurtful to Wang’s family, the prosecutor added.

After Wang was stabbed with a military-style dagger with a 25cm blade, the syndicate boss organised for the corpse to be concealed, Justice Edwin Wylie said.

A Mandarin interpreter at today’s sentencing hearing assisted Yu, a corpulent, bespectacled man wearing a prison-issue grey tracksuit top.

Justice Wylie said Wang’s body was driven to the North Island Volcanic Plateau.

Yu helped remove blood smears from the Massey property, and helped to take the dead man’s body from a freezer and put it in a shallow grave.

“You and others filled the grave with shovels you’d all bought to the scene,” Justice Wylie added.

“His whereabouts were unknown for some two years after his death.”

But Wang’s remains were exhumed in March 2020.

The court was told Yu said he felt huge relief when ultimately arrested.

But he was conflicted about Wang.

“You consider that he was not a good person but he did have children who were now fatherless,” Justice Wylie said.

The court heard Yu had said “what transpired with the body was a surreal experience.”

The judge said heavy drug use had made Yu an emotional wreck who had trouble empathising.

Justice Wylie said Wang’s father had spoken of the devastation he and his wife felt now.

“He is struggling to accept the fact that his son is dead. He fears that they will die in loneliness and grief.”

Drift into mischief

The court heard Yu’s father sent him to New Zealand in 2015 and he enrolled in a hospitality course.

But the young man cut his arm accidentally, when trying to enter his own house, and drifted into mischief.

“You had too much free time on your hands and you started associating with antisocial peers.”

But the court was told Yu now insisted he only fraternised with pro-social people.

He entered a guilty plea in March to being an accessory after the fact to murder.

The court was told Yu had an identity crisis, came from a broken family, and was young and easily-influenced when he helped with attempts to conceal the murder.

Today he was sentenced to one year, seven months and two weeks in jail.

Yu is already serving a jail sentence for drug offending.

“Being an accessory after the fact to a murder is different in kind to the drug-related offending for which you’re currently in custody,” Justice Wylie said.

For that reason, the new 19 and-a-half month prison term is cumulative, meaning it must be served in addition to his existing sentence.

The court has already dealt with several people linked to Wang’s murder, but some matters are still before the court.

Yuzhen Zhang, 29, was sentenced to six months’ home detention after the court heard a misguided sense of loyalty motivated his actions.

Zhang had also admitted being an accessory after the fact to the murder.

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