Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Slain man almost a killer too

Shot hunter's girlfriend says he once nearly made same error that led to his own death.
Gabrielle Molloy with Henry Worsp at the inquest into the death of her partner, James Dodds, who was hunting near Rotorua when Worsp, his mate, shot him. Photo / APN
Gabrielle Molloy with Henry Worsp at the inquest into the death of her partner, James Dodds, who was hunting near Rotorua when Worsp, his mate, shot him. Photo / APN

A hunter shot and killed by his best mate last year had previously told his partner he knew how easy it was to mistake a person for a deer.

Gabrielle Molloy, girlfriend of James Dodds, has spoken to the media for the first time about the death of her partner of 10 years, who was shot by friend Henry Worsp during a hunting trip south of Rotorua on September 7.

Ms Molloy has told 60 Minutes on Prime that she could never blame Worsp for the death of 30-year-old "Dodzy", who once admitted to almost shooting a fellow hunter himself.

"You have to understand that Dodzy knew how easy that was to do as well," Ms Molloy said.

"He would always tell me how easy it is to do and how careful you have to be about target identification because he had someone in his sights and he nearly pulled the trigger once."

Ms Molloy said she did not feel angry at Worsp, a father of two, despite a coroner ruling last month that Mr Dodds' death could have been avoided.

"It was just straight sadness. I could never feel angry at him because he hadn't intended to do that. He is absolutely certain he saw a deer that day and he still is to this day."

She said it must have been traumatic for Worsp to find that instead of shooting a fallow deer, which are smaller than red deer and can be white, light brown or almost black, he had killed his friend.

"I can't imagine that confusion for Henry to go from absolutely so excited that he'd thought he'd shot a fallow deer. He just went down there thinking, 'Yeah, cool, I have got a fallow,' and how his world just turned upside down."

Ms Molloy said she had forgiven Worsp, who in January was sentenced to six months' home detention and 250 hours' community work after earlier pleading guilty to careless use of a firearm causing Mr Dodds' death.

Ms Molloy, who has previously called for a new rule in the Arms Code to prevent hunters shooting if they are split from a hunting companion, has spoken out in the hope that publicity will prevent another death.

Easter marks the beginning of the Roar, the season when stags call for a mate and the country's 40,000 deerstalkers take to the bush in search of their target.

But before the year is over, one Kiwi hunter is likely to have been killed by his hunting mate.

Despite Worsp being regarded by many as a role model when it came to outdoor safety, he admitted failing to accurately identify his target, though he could not understand or explain how he thought Mr Dodds was a stag.

The Brain Clinic director Pascal Saker believes the reason hunters keep mistaking their mates for the target is because of prediction or expectation.

"What's happening with hunters is they are so used to predicting it's a deer because they've never encountered the situation where it's another human. So the brain is constructing that scenario in their minds."

He said the way to overcome that was to simulate the experience of encountering a person, so that the brain had another scenario it could predict.

However, New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association national president Tim McCarthy said hunting safely boiled down to one simple rule: identify the target with 100 per cent accuracy.

He said sticking together would not prevent deaths because there could still be other hunting parties in the area.

Hunting danger

*One death every nine months on average.
*Half of victims in high-visibility gear.
*Ten out of last 12 victims shot by companion.
*Shooter is usually experienced.

- NZ Herald

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