Death of an undercover cop

By Eddie Gay

A number of criminal trials captured public attention in 2010.Court reporter Edward Gay revisits some of the high-profile cases.

Sergeant Don Wilkinson was shot at night in this Mangere driveway after trying to plant a bug in his assailant's car. Photo / Richard Robinson
Sergeant Don Wilkinson was shot at night in this Mangere driveway after trying to plant a bug in his assailant's car. Photo / Richard Robinson

CASE 2: TARGETS IN THE DOCK

Two undercover cops were dressed in black as they crept down the darkened driveway of a suspected P cook in the early hours of the morning.

Sergeant Don Wilkinson and "Officer M" were on a covert operation to bug the car of John Ward Skinner and didn't know they'd been spotted on a CCTV camera when security lights went on, lighting up the Mangere driveway.

Skinner and his friend Iain Lindsay Clegg came out and chased the pair in their car before catching up with them in a driveway. Skinner shot both officers, fatally shooting Mr Wilkinson and wounding Officer M.

The pair went on trial at the Auckland High Court in June. Skinner was found guilty of murdering Mr Wilkinson, attempting to murder Officer M and assault with a weapon.

Clegg was found guilty of manslaughter.

At the trial, Officer M told the closed court he and Mr Wilkinson ran down a driveway before Clegg and Skinner's car went past them, but it stopped and reversed back to where they were.

He said they knew they were "in trouble".

Officer M said he held his hands up instinctively in defence as the first bullet went through his forearm, lodging in his chest, and he fell to the ground.

"The next thing I remember is being shot in the back," he said.

Officer M said he heard three more shots and the sound of the car leaving.

"I could hear Don gurgling and groaning. I turned to talk to him, to ask what had happened, to see if he was alright but I never got a reply at all," he said.

Crown prosecutor Simon Moore, SC, said both defendants were involved.

"One was shooting, the other was hitting, and not a word was said between them. They then changed their clothes, Skinner hid the gun and they started to get their stories together," Mr Moore said.

Skinner's lawyer, Marie Dhyrberg, said her client thought that the policemen were intruders and he reacted in self-defence.

"The evidence in this case does not fit with the Crown's theory that Skinner intended to harm someone on that September night, let alone intend to kill someone," Ms Dhyrberg said.

Clegg's lawyer, Stuart Grieve, QC, said his client did not kill Mr Wilkinson or try to kill Officer M, and Skinner was "acting on his own".

The jury did not agree.

Outside court, Mr Wilkinson's mother, Beverley Lawrie, told reporters the bottom fell out of her life when her son was shot.

She said her son had served with the military overseas and had come back to New Zealand after a near-death experience.

"The last place I expected him to be killed was in New Zealand," Mrs Lawrie said.

Skinner's partner, Tina Preece, said the jury's decision was unfair. "The only reason [the jury] came to that decision is because he was a police officer. If it had been a normal person off the street, a thug or a criminal, it would have been a different story," she said.

Skinner was jailed for life with a minimum non-parole period of 15 years. Clegg got eight years with a minimum non-parole period of four years.

JOHN WARD SKINNER, IAIN LINDSAY CLEGG

Where: High Court at Auckland.
When: June.
Charges: Skinner - murder, attempted murder and assault with a weapon. Clegg - manslaughter.
Verdict: Guilty.

- NZ Herald

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