Mistaken identity murder: Man charged over brutal execution of David Kuka in Tauranga

Police investigating the ‘execution style’ killing of David Kuka – an innocent man believed to be the victim of mistaken identity – have made an arrest nearly four years after his death.

A 34-year-old man from Raetihi will be charged with the murder of Kuka who was shot close to midnight on the evening of 11 February 2018, in the Tauranga suburb of Gate Pa.

The man will appear in Tauranga District Court on Saturday morning, Detective Inspector Lew Warner confirmed.

“Police would like to acknowledge the victim’s extended family,” said Warner. “As this matter is now before the courts, Police will not be commenting further.”

Despite the passage of time since Kuka’s death, a 52-year-old father of four, the investigation team had remained confident of solving the case.

NZME has previously revealed that the police believe Kuka was mistakenly killed in retaliation for the death of another man living in the same building, who was shot dead several weeks earlier.

“David wasn’t always a saint but he had turned his life around. We believe it’s a case of mistaken identity and there are people out there who know what happened,” Warner previously told NZME.

“We’d urge them to do the right thing and tell us what they know.”

Tall and rangy, with long dark hair, the 52-year-old Kuka was a well-known figure in downtown Tauranga where he’d walk with his first raised to the sky, pointing to heaven.

Wearing a leather vest with a cross on the back, Kuka would spend his weekend nights busking with his guitar and singing about his saviour.

A private man who was last seen playing a guitar in his room, Kuka was of Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Porou descent.

As a young boy, Kuka was brought up on Matakana Island by his grandmother before he settled in Greerton. He went to Greerton School and Tauranga Boys’ College.

His cousin James Tapiata, a master carver from Te Puna, had mentored Kuka in developing his carving skills over the years.

They worked together on many projects including a meeting house at Tauranga Boys’ College, which Tapiata said was a source of real pride for Kuka.

Speaking on behalf of the Kuka whanau in 2019, his daughter Te Kimioranga Kuka wanted the public to know her father had nothing to do with drugs or gangs anymore.

“He was a loud and proud Christian. He had completely turned his life around. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“He really cared about other people. People would remember him, if they stop to think. We miss him heaps.”

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