Mother lay in blood as son stabbed again
Mark Burton stabbed his mother 53 times with a small
knife, then plunged a bigger knife into her back three
times as she lay bleeding on the floor, a policeman told
the High Court at Invercargill yesterday.
Blood was spattered on the walls, the floors and the
exterior of the family home, said Detective Peter Corbett.
A jury is hearing a charge of murder against Burton, aged
20, who is accused of killing his mother, Patricia Anne
Burton, on March 31.
Burton has denied the murder on the grounds of insanity.
Detective Corbett, the crime scene officer, said he
believed Burton drove to his parents' Queenstown home
from Invercargill. He took clothes, a small knife and a
bottle filled with petrol.
Mrs Burton had apparently gone to investigate the sound
of glass breaking as Burton broke into the house and he
first attacked her in the hallway just inside the front door.
The first stab wounds were from a small knife, Detective
On the porch, footprints and blood indicated that Mrs
Burton was rounded up between two garden chairs, and
the amount of blood indicated she was bleeding heavily.
The pair then apparently went back inside the house
where Mrs Burton fell or slid to the floor because of her
extensive injuries. The amount of blood indicated she lay
there for some time.
A telephone near her body indicated she had tried to use
it, he said.
After stabbing Mrs Burton 53 times with the small knife,
Burton took a chef's knife from the kitchen and stabbed
her three times while she was face down on the floor. He
cut himself on the knife.
Blood trails indicated he went upstairs looking for his
young brother, who was hiding in a wardrobe.
Burton went back downstairs where blood stains
indicated he stood on the stairs above his mother's body.
After pouring petrol around the downstairs and over Mrs
Burton's body Burton tried to set fire to it before leaving,
Detective Corbett said.
To defence lawyer Bill Dawkins, the detective said he
would call it a sustained, persistent and determined
attack rather than frenzied.
Burton was stopped by police road spikes north of
Winton some hours after Mrs Burton's death.
He was taken to hospital where he had surgery to the
cuts on his hands.
The court was shown a two-and-a-half-hour videotape of
an interview with Burton conducted by Detective Dave
McKenzie, of Invercargill, the day after Mrs Burton was
Burton said he could remember nothing between drinking
on his own at his Invercargill flat on Friday night and
being stopped by the police.
"With the cuts on my hands and coming back from
Queenstown it must have been me," he said.
Asked when he last went to Queenstown, Burton replied
it was about two months previously, before he was
admitted to Southland Hospital with schizophrenia
Towards the end of the interview Burton said he thought
he must have killed his mother and started the fire.
The trial continues today.
Flatting with the enemy
08.09.2001 When a bright law student let a stranger
share his flat it was the start of a conflict that would end
in violent death. ALISON HORWOOD chronicles a tragic
It began with an insignificant-looking advertisement in the
classified columns of a Wellington newspaper. It read
something like: Flatmate wanted for Karori bungalow. To
share with two others.
And in March 1999, David James Gates, a 27-year-old
fundamentalist Christian and diagnosed schizophrenic,
circled the advertisement and cut it out.
Despite his deteriorating mental health, Gates, son of a
middle-class Karori family, was capable of presenting a
normal face. Before seeing the advertisement for Wavell
St, he had convinced two cohabiting psychologists he
was an ideal flatmate. And a few months later, when he
re-applied to join the territorials, a routine medical did not
detect anything untoward.
So Gates was able to convince Victoria University law
student Gavin Edward Dash and his flatmate Sally
Patterson that he was the best candidate for the spare
room. On March 10, 1999, he moved his broken-down
bed and meagre belongings into a bedroom at the end of
Taking up residence with a stranger is common in the
world of rented accommodation. But the events that
unfolded over the next few months were far from ordinary.
Before the end of spring, Gates would strangle to death
Dash, a quiet 24-year-old who until then did not have an
enemy in the world. He would stow Dash's body in a
spare room for a few days, before dumping it on the
Makara Hill, several kilometres behind the home they
He would return twice to the rotting corpse, once with a
sharp axe, which he use to remove the head. He put the
head in a Wellington City Council rubbish bag, knotted it
and put it in the hollow of a tree 7m from Dash's naked
Gates' peculiar behaviour resulted on Monday in an
11-person jury in the High Court at Wellington finding him
not guilty by reason of of insanity of murdering Dash on
September 27, 1999. But they did find him guilty of later
burgling Dash's flat.
Gates was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in April last
year, and has been there since. Consultant forensic
psychiatrist John Crawshaw gave evidence that if Gates
had not been locked up he could have committed a
During the four-week trial, shaven-headed Gates spent
much of his time with his head bowed and looking at his
feet. Justice Neazor excused him from attending on
He had admitted the main facts of the killing, phoning
police and even drawing a map of where the body parts
The jury had to decide whether to accept the argument
nte put forward by his defence counsel, John Rowan,
QC, that he was legally insane at the time of the murder
or the prosecution case that the elaborate precautions he
took to avoid detection showed he was of sound mind.
Gates, who suffers from a paranoid type of
schizophrenia, was so ill he either did not know what he
was doing or did not know it was morally wrong, Rowan
had told the court. Gates believed Dash was evil, and his
execution was necessary to save himself and others
During the four-week trial, details of Gates' deteriorating
mental health over the past decade were given. When he
was about 15, he worked for, and temporarily lived with,
anti-crime campaigner Mark Middleton, the stepfather of
murdered Taita teenager, Karla Cardno.
All the talk of Karla's murder would have had a profound
effect on Gates, his mother, Doreen, told the court. She
blamed Middleton for introducing her son to smoking,
probably cannabis, and religious and racist ideas.
Years later he would show a friend a pornographic
magazine in his room, but claim he had it only for an
article on the Ku Klux Klan. He also spoke of the
God-given differences between white and coloured people
andnte while receiving psychiatric help this year he
believed a Pakistani doctor was a threat and that an
Indian patient had an unclean spirit.
In the past few years, Gates had become increasingly
moody and unpredictable. Joining a Fundamentalist
church fuelled his obsessions with homosexuals - whom
he called sodomites - adultery and fornication. He had
delusions he was the prophet Elijah who, according to
the Old Testament, slaughtered hundreds of prophets of
another cult and had been sent back from Heaven on a
mission from God.
Further delusions about incestuous relationships
between his siblings and about his father, John, having a
Satanic involvement in Freemasonry caused a rift with
his family and his parents took out a trespass notice
against him after he attacked his brother, Stuart.
Drifting in and out of work, Gates spent time sleeping in
his vehicle and in hostels around the capital, before
moving into Wavell St.
About the time Gates answered the advertisement, his
parents had considered having him committed. During
the trial, they testified they decided against it because
they were scared he would not cope or would cut them
Dash, his victim, was a stark contrast: a teetotal
24-year-old who played table tennis, belonged to
Toastmasters, and spent his Friday nights playing chess
at a club in Karori. He held an BA (hons) from Auckland
University, but had moved to Wellington to study law. He
aspired to work as a policy analyst.
Almost as soon as Gates moved in, the problems began.
As Crown prosecutor Grant Burston said during the trial,
quite simply the two men did not get on.
In an e-mail to his mother, Lyn, Dash described Gates
as "one of the most moody, immature and self-absorbed
people I have met. We don't get along at all."
Intellectually superior, Dash would infuriate Gates by
walking away from an argument with the last word, or by
ignoring him completely.
Gates believed Dash looked down on him. He referred to
Dash as the "evil fornicator" and became obsessed with
the idea he masturbated incessantly in his room. He told
a friend that Dash, as an academic and an atheist,
disputed his Christian beliefs and made him unwell.
"Dash picked on the wrong Christian," he would tell the
same friend after the killing.
The situation worsened and in about May, Patterson, a
young woman with learning and developmental
disabilities whose mother owned the flat, rang the police
at 2 am to report Gates had threatened her. He
apparently said, "I'm going to put $500 into a bank
account to take care of the bills and then do away with
you and Gavin." She moved out shortly afterward, leaving
Gates and Dash alone.
Over the next six weeks, Dash told his Auckland-based
parents, Lyn and Colin Dash, the tension made him
uncomfortable. On July 24, Dash moved out suddenly
without giving notice to the landlord. He picked a time
when Gates was not at home, and did not say goodbye
or leave a follow-up address.
During August and most of September, Dash's life
continued as normal. During that time, Gates used the
phone at his parents' house in Karori to phone Dash nine
times. The day before the killing, Sunday, September 26,
three calls were made to Dash, who was by then living in
a new flat in the suburb of Northland.
The following day, Dash went about his normal Monday
routine. He left his new flat around 11.30 am to attend a
12.40 pm lecture. A video camera shows him getting $20
from an ATM machine in central Wellington at 1.45 pm.
At 3.30 pm he closed the computer down at the law
faculty at Victoria University, picked up his black
backpack and left the University, walking towards
Some time that evening, Dash had an appointment with
Helen Patterson, the landlord at Wavell St, to get his
bond back. He never made it. About 5.30 pm he went to
Wavell St where Gates was living alone, perhaps to pick
up some mail or to discuss a misunderstanding about a
There, said the Crown, Gates confronted Dash in the
lounge. He punched him, knocking him to the ground,
then continued kicking him in the head. Spots of his
blood were found just behind the door.
Gates told Dr Tony Marks, one of six psychiatrists to
give evidence for the defence, he held Dash in a headlock
for five minutes and then strangled him with his own belt,
but forensic pathologist Dr Kenneth Thompson said the
bruising was more consistent with manual strangulation.
After Dash drew his last breath, Gates removed his upper
clothing. He cut up a grey blanket and wrapped it around
Dash's head and taped it in place. He then got a sleeping
bag and put the body head-first inside it and zipped it up.
He then put the body in a bedroom, and left it for several
days before carrying it into his Bedford van, and driving to
the nearby summit of Makara Hill.
Gates got out of the car, said Burston, carrying the
sleeping bag and body about 400m along a path, then a
further 22m off the walking track and into heavy bush,
where he dumped it.
According to the Crown, Gates then began a calculated
cover-up to try to get away with the murder. Rowan said
he was legally insane and his actions were the work of a
Back at the flat, he removed a section of blood-stained
carpet from the lounge. It has never been found. Within
three days, he took Dash's keys from his backpack, and
used them to enter his new flat in Northland. Gates
stripped Dash's bedroom of all clearly visible belongings,
including bedding, underwear and sports socks.
He left behind a few belongings on top of a wardrobe, his
toiletries in the bathroom, and did not touch any of the
other flatmates' valuables. The only reasonable
explanation for this, said Burston, was that Gates
planned the burglary to make it seem Dash had moved
out with no forwarding address.
It worked. Police at first treated the disappearance as a
missing person inquiry and it was not until months later,
largely after pressure from the Dash family, it was
At least one month after the killing - before the murder
hunt began - some time after October 27 and before
November 28 according to the Crown, Gates returned to
Dash's decomposing body, taking with him a pair of
scissors, a sharp axe and some rubbish bags.
Using the scissors, he cut the sleeping bag off to expose
the head, still wrapped in the grey blanket. He cut the
tape around the neck, folding back the bottom edges of
the blanket to expose the neck. Using at least two blows
from the axe, he severed the head from the body. He
then put it into a rubbish bag and put it into the hollow of
an upturned tree.
Doreen Gates told the court her son was obsessed with
zombies and may have removed the head to prevent his
victim turning into one. The Crown said it could have
been part of the cover-up to avoid identification through
dental records. Months after the killing police found a
copy of FHM magazine at Wavell St that included a letter
to the editor on dental identification.
Gates then unzipped the sleeping bag and tipped the
body on to the ground. The body had been naked from
the waist up, but with jeans and underpants on. On this
return visit, however, he removed the remaining clothing.
He removed all identifying items, such as wallet, glasses
Gates double-bagged the underwear, jeans, and sleeping
bag in a rubbish bags, and put them in the hollow above
the severed head. He then covered the bags in leaves,
sticks and branches but left the headless body lying on
the surface. This had the effect of speeding
decomposition, said Burston.
Throughout October and November, Gates remained at
Wavell St. On October 8, he drove to the Plimmerton
address of an acquaintance, Andrew Miller. He did not
know him well, but asked to stay.
Once Miller was at work, Gates went through Dash's
property, using scissors to cut some of it up. He put the
pieces into rubbish bags, which he put outside for the
rubbish collection later that day. He left a suitcase
belonging to Dash behind the couch and scraps of
Dash's licence were found in the vacuum cleaner bag.
Up to that time Gates had not been in contact with the
police. However on November 19, he was contacted by a
private investigator for the Dash family, which was
frustrated at the slow police progress.
About the same time, Patterson asked him to leave the
Wavell St flat because it was being readied for sale. He
stayed for a time at Rowena's Lodge in Mt Victoria.
There, he showed another guest, Daniel Tattersall, a
hunting knife and told him he could imagine stabbing
Asians with it. The experience was a frightening one,
Tattersall would say later.
On 28 November, Gates travelled to Dunedin then on to
Queenstown. He arrived in Nelson between Christmas
and New Year, where he bumped into an old schoolmate,
Matthew Tulett. He apparently said he wanted vengeance
for being picked on at school, making references to the
Bible and judgment day, clenching and unclenching his
fists, Tullet told the court. He also talked about the rush
he got from killing a dog, and how much greater that rush
would be from killing a human.
By December, Gates was of interest to the police but
was still at large. In January of last year, he returned to
Wellington four days before an Army medical to re-enlist
in the territorials. Nothing untoward was picked up.
Several months earlier, he had sat the written test and
scored 41 out of 44 for reasoning - placing him in the top
third of all applicants in 1999 and the highest that month.
Not long after he returned to the capital and about three
months after he killed Dash, Gates returned to the
dismembered body. He took with him a yellow spade
from the basement of his mother's house in Karori, buried
the remains and hid the spade in his parents woodpile.
During February and March police spoke to Gates
several times. At the time he denied any involvement in
the killing, Burston told the court. But during the burglary
of Dash's new flat, he left blood on two areas of the
wardrobe and the curtain. Only the killer would have had
the motive to burgle the room, said Burston. That motive
was not to get the property but to cover up the death.
Gates also made the mistake of giving away some of
Dash's property, which was later traced back to him. He
gave his sister, Vanessa, a heater and Kambrook iron.
He sold Dash's radio cassette player to a friend for $20
and a calculator for $5 - acts of folly that may have
underlined the argument that this was a man in severe
But the verdict gave little comfort to the Dash family.
After their battle to persuade the police to treat the case
as a crime and the ordeal of a lengthy trial they were
visibly downcast with the verdict.
"It's a sad day for justice," said his father. And for the
Gates family it confirms the loss of their son to the mists
of his tormented mind.
Rampage suspect captured after manhunt
SACRAMENTO - Police captured fugitive Ukrainian
immigrant Nikolay Soltys cowering under a desk in his
mother's backyard yesterday, ending a 10-day hunt for a
man who allegedly stabbed six relatives to death -
including his pregnant wife and 3-year-old son.
Police arrested him just a few kilometres from where the
bloody murders took place on August 20.
"This probably was the biggest manhunt in the history of
Sacramento County and it came to a happy ending
today," said Sacramento County Sheriff Lou Blanas.
The arrest capped more than week of extensive police
work in and around Sacramento as authorities hunted for
the 27-year-old former shoemaker, who had been placed
on the FBI's 10-Most-Wanted List and had a price of
$US120,000 ($272,000) on his head.
The first alert came as a surveillance detail stationed
outside Soltys' mother's house in the suburb of Citrus
Heights saw his mother, brother, and several other
relatives scramble to leave early in the morning, packing
into a car and roaring away from the house on a quiet
The car carrying the family stopped at a nearby store
where Soltys' brother ran in to call a 911 emergency line
to report that Soltys had returned.
Officers then moved in to search the house, and
discovered Soltys hiding underneath a desk in the
"Several of us could see the suspect's feet ... he was
curled or maybe lying on the ground as if he was
resting," said Detective Chris Joachim, one of the first
officers on the scene.
Police said Soltys appeared to want to flee but when he
found his way blocked by a refrigerator he put up his
hands and submitted to arrest.
"The whole time he was very stoic, he didn't say anything
to us. He didn't really respond immediately ... We had to
forcibly take him down, although he didn't struggle," said
Sergeant Virgil Brown.
Police said Soltys, whom they described as dirty and
dishevelled, as if he had been camping for days, was
carrying a potato peeler and a map of Sacramento.
Nearby, they found a backpack containing a sleeping
bag and a knife they believe may be the weapon he
allegedly used in the murders. He had stabbed his
pregnant 23-year-old wife Lyubov to death in the house
they shared in a nearby suburb before moving on to kill
four other relatives, including two children, in another
Police believe Soltys drove to his mother's house to pick
up his 3-year-old son Sergey, took him to a rural area
outside Sacramento and stabbed him to death in a
cardboard packing box, which was left atop a pile of
The murders horrified Sacramento's large Russian and
Ukrainian immigrant communities, thousands of whom
gathered on Sunday at an emotional memorial service for
the six victims.
Investigators have not established a specific motive,
although they say they believe Soltys has a history of
Residents have also told investigators that Soltys was
engaged in racketeering and extortion, leading
investigators to believe he may have killed his adult
victims to silence them.