Murder accused 'was trying to save friend'

Murder accused Darin Gardner was trying to save a friend when he drove into a crowd in suburban Auckland last October, a court was told today.

Gardner, 25, is on trial in the High Court in Auckland accused of murdering Melissa Viall and Kane Wright in Pakuranga, southeast Auckland, on October 8 last year.

The Crown argues that Gardner twice drove at a group of people fighting on a Pakuranga street on October 8 last year, killing Ms Viall instantly. Mr Wright died the next day.

Gardner also faces charges of intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and injuring with intent. James Rixon and Anton Degraaff face charges of injuring with intent.

But Gardner's lawyer Jonathan Krebs told the jury of seven women and five men in his opening address that Gardner was trying to aid Degraaf, who had been in a fight.

"His primary focus was to rescue a friend who was being attacked, who he thought was being killed," Mr Krebs told the jury.

Brief evidence was given today on Gardner's behalf from Degraaff's mother Sandra Degraaff, who told of Gardner arriving at her place early on October 8, yelling "they're killing him, they're killing him".

She said Gardner woke up her younger son Aaron, saying Anton was being killed by "20 to 30 niggers".

Ms de Graaf said she told Aaron to go with Gardner and pick up her son. Gardner, the Degraaff brothers and Rixon arrived back about 10 minutes later. She saw Anton Degraaff's face was badly swollen and he had a cut which would require stitches.

Gardner and Rixon stayed the night, and the next morning Rixon told Ms Degraaff that some of those fighting her son were yelling "kill him, kill him".

She said she took Gardner back to his home that morning. Gardner wanted to tell his mother first what had happened overnight. Shortly afterwards, Gardner's mother called police.

Evidence was also given by Aaron Degraaff, who told of picking his brother up from a bus stop near a Caltex Service Station at Highland Park, Pakuranga, along with Gardner.

He said ambulance staff were present, helping some people but nobody was giving aid to his brother.

No evidence was called on behalf of Degraaff or Rixon.

The jury is expected to retire to consider its verdict tomorrow.

- NZPA

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