Thu. Dec 1st, 2022


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Sasha Borissenko: Irish dancer Adrian Murphy’s influence and untimely death

4 min read


It was during this year’s Planet FM – a community radio station based in Auckland – Christmas party that I was waxing lyrical about my Irish heritage with a fellow Irishman. He asked whether I had ever taken up Irish dancing – of course I had – and whether I was involved in the Auckland dance community. I was not, but I had a teacher – Adrian Murphy – who would commute to Tauranga every week or so.

Murphy was a big noise at the time. On top of his charm and talent, he was a seven-time all-Ireland dance champion who produced and choreographed the likes of Feet of Fire, Celtic Dance Force, and Firedance. He established the Modern Dance Education Syllabus in 1999, and toured Europe with Ceoltais Ceoltaoire Na Erin.

It is with shock and sadness to learn that Murphy had been murdered in London last year. The news made waves in the United Kingdom and Ireland, but not New Zealand – despite him creating seven schools of dance across the country and Australia in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

The 43-year-old was found dead in his friend’s south London flat in June 2019, the Croydon Crown Court heard in late October.

Joel Osei, 25, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and an alternative charge of administering poison, with intent to injure, as well as seven counts of fraud. He denied two counts of theft.

Diana Cristea, 18, admitted one count of fraud and two counts of handling stolen goods.

Osei used a dating app to contact Murphy before poisoning him with scopolamine in a soft drink. Pathological tests on Murphy found the poison in his system and traces of the drug were found in a nearby drinks can.

CCTV footage showed Osei walking towards the property and leaving two hours later with stolen goods. Osei messaged Cristea 23 times during the visit and later handed her phones, bank cards, designer goods, and laptops. The pair tried to purchase £60,000 worth of diamonds from a New York jeweller with Murphy’s credit card.

The court heard paramedics had attended to another man several days earlier, who had also been drugged and robbed by Osei. The pair will be sentenced this week.

Murphy left New Zealand to work as a dance instructor and choreographer at the Royal Academy of Dance in London and was on a year-long sabbatical at the time of his death. My first instinct when reading this court summary was, “if only he had stayed in New Zealand” – but then of course, dating-app related deaths are not new to New Zealand.

But rather than dwelling on the details of his death, I think it is worthwhile to discuss the impact he made on me as an 8-year-old. It was during his lessons that I made one of my oldest friends – I remember fondly the time she wore a home-made headscarf, to which my mother said I could probably make a better one. I tried, and failed, of course. Said friend and I still laugh about the fashion faux pas and Murphy’s zest for dance today.

And while I could never nail a proper reel or jig, and Murphy disestablished his commuting, which meant I stopped Irish dancing altogether – the experience led me to pursue years of ballet, tap, and jazz (much to my mother’s disdain in a financial and cultural sense).

This love of dance in turn led to a performing arts degree and a life-time love of sewing. It is thanks to Adrian Murphy that I have many happy memories.

More on Tauranga

Speaking of the outer reaches of civilisation, otherwise known as Tauranga, the developer and company behind the sad Bella Vista Homes subdivision saga has been convicted of breaching the Building Act.

Tauranga City Council laid 19 charges against Bella Vista Homes Ltd and its director Danny Cancian, the Engineer Ltd and its director Bruce Cameron, and blocklayer Darrel Joseph. The charges related to allegedly carrying out building work outside the Building Act, and not in line with building consent or approved plans. Cancian and Bella Vista Homes Ltd – now in liquidation – defended its seven charges.

Judge Paul Mabey QC found Cancian and Bella Vista Homes guilty of three charges, Joseph was convicted of three charges; and Cameron and the Engineer Ltd were found guilty of six charges. Nominal sentencing will take place in January.

The Bay of Plenty Times reported the Tauranga City Council spent more than $1.6 million in six months dealing with the failed development and the fallout.

If you’ve got any tips, legal tidbits, or appointments that might be of interest, please email Sasha – on

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