Shipton's wife stunned as cousin rebuts evidence

By Patrick Gower

Former policeman Brad Shipton shuddered in the dock while his wife Sharon wept in the witness stand yesterday after it was revealed her cousin had arrived to directly challenge their alibi.

His shudder soon turned to tears as Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway took the couple from surprise to shock in a few short sentences at the police sex trial.

The Crown had recalled Mrs Shipton for further cross-examination on her sworn evidence in Shipton's defence that they were on a month-long holiday with her cousin in Wanganui in February 1984 during the period the offences he is charged with allegedly took place.

Mr Stanaway said they had checked this evidence out with Mrs Shipton's cousin, Christine Filer, who completely disagreed with it.

This, Mrs Shipton said, left her "totally stunned".

Then Mr Stanaway said Mrs Filer, who now lives in Australia, was about to appear in the High Court at Auckland as a rebuttal witness for him.

Again, Mrs Shipton was stunned: "I thought she was going to be a witness for the defence."

Mr Stanaway then said the cousin would say Mrs Shipton had rung her after giving the evidence last week and said that if asked about the holiday by police, she should say she didn't remember.

At this, Mrs Shipton burst into tears: "As God strikes me down I never said such a thing. I cannot believe Christine would say such a thing. I wish I could look her in the eye."

Shipton's body was shuddering as Mr Stanaway interrupted: "I take it from that you deny it." Mrs Shipton: "On my daughter's life."

Mr Stanaway had more: Mrs Filer would say Mrs Shipton had told her during the phone call that it would be better if Mrs Filer, who was on holiday in Perth, stayed away from her Brisbane home where the police would be trying to get in touch.

"Oh, good heavens no," Mrs Shipton cried. "This is like a mad movie. Oh my God."

Shipton's body continued to shudder and his fingers tightly gripped the bridge of his nose.

Mr Stanaway told Mrs Shipton all this pointed to her evidence being the "jack-up" he had earlier said it was.

More tears from Mrs Shipton, and the same denial: "I said it [on Monday] and I will go to my grave saying it. This is a jack-up but not on my part. I would move mountains if the truth could be told."

Shipton clasped his hands together and rested his forehead on them, his head down and eyes closed.

Then Mr Stanaway was finished.

As Mrs Shipton composed herself, so did her husband, dabbing away at his eyes with a handkerchief.

Mr Stanaway then called his first rebuttal witness, an unchallenged statement from Mrs Shipton's father, John Cavanagh, in Wanganui.

Mrs Shipton's evidence was that the month-long holiday was taken because her grandmother was being put into hospital care on February 14, 1984.

Mr Cavanagh's statement said this date was incorrect.

His mother had a stroke in September 1982 and he had found documents that proved she was in care in 1983.

Mr Stanaway then called Mrs Filer. He asked her if the Shiptons had come on a month-long holiday in February 1984, and she said: "I don't recall it at all."

Mrs Filer said her family had three birthdays throughout the month, and she could not remember Mr and Mrs Shipton being present at any of them that year.

She said she had responded to an urgent message from Mrs Shipton last week to call and was told the police might be phoning and that she didn't have to answer any questions.

She said Mrs Shipton asked her if she could remember them coming to stay in Wanganui, but did not give her the specific date.

Mrs Filer said Mrs Shipton called her on Friday last week in Perth, again saying she didn't have to say anything, but if she couldn't recall "just to say I didn't remember".

Asked by Shipton's lawyer Bill Nabney if she could rule the holiday out, she replied: "I believe I can."

Mr Stanaway said although Mrs Shipton's evidence was "a pack of lies", like the complainant, "Sharon Shipton is a victim in all this".

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