Urewera trial halted because of illness

By Edward Gay

From left: Te Rangikaiwhira Kemara, Emily Felicity Bailey and Urs Signer in the dock in the High Court at Auckland yesterday. Photo / Brett Phibbs
From left: Te Rangikaiwhira Kemara, Emily Felicity Bailey and Urs Signer in the dock in the High Court at Auckland yesterday. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Urewera trial has been adjourned for the day after one of the accused called in sick.

Justice Rodney Hansen told the jurors that Urs Signer is unwell and has sent a medical certificate to the court.

"I do apologise for the inconvenience it will cause you.''

He said it was the accused's right to hear all the evidence against him and Signer had given his permission for one witness to be called while he was not there.

Tame Wairere Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Emily Felicity Bailey and Urs Signer are on trial in the High Court at Auckland, accused of being involved in military-style training camps.

They have denied charges of belonging to a criminal organisation and possessing guns.

The court heard from Kevin Wallace, a former police officer involved in Operation 8.

Mr Wallace said he followed Kemara and two others from Auckland, through Tauranga. He said he saw them stop at a petrol station and Four Square where they got food and drink.

Mr Wallace said the group then drove on to Taneatua where they stopped.

"It just sort of looked like they were getting bags and stuff out of the boot.''

Yesterday the court heard how police officers on a covert operation inside the Urewera ranges heard "a big thumping weapon'' loaded and fired as close as 30m away, a court has been told.

A senior constable, who has name suppression, told the court how he set up motion sensors in the Urewera Ranges as part of Operation 8.

He said that in mid-November 2006, police were worried their motion sensors were being triggered by a leaf and went to check them.

But the members of the Special Tactics Group stopped when they heard weapons being loaded, followed by a volley of shots.

Asked how close, the senior constable said "probably 30-40m ... It was a volley of shots being fired from a semi-automatic weapon''.

The police officer, who has experience in the Armed Offenders Squad, said it sounded like a "big thumping weapon'' and was possibly a .762 calibre rifle or a .308.

He described hearing a range of weapons, one of which he thought was a gun with a silencer.

The police officer said he heard between 150 and 200 rounds being fired as well as military-style commands

"You could hear someone yell out: 'bang, bang, bang' simulating a firearm. Things like:'Fall out, fall out' and `go, go, go'... We refer to that as contact drills.''

Under cross-examination from Kemara's lawyer, Nick Taylor, the police officer agreed it was hard to say for sure what kind of gun was being fired.

The jurors also watched more video footage taken by the police during their covert operation.

The footage, captured in January 2007, shows groups of people wearing masks and moving through the bush. Some were carrying guns, others sticks and some were unarmed.

Most of them were wearing backpacks and, at one point, one of them crouched down and used hand signals.

Earlier, the court heard from Detective Inspector Geoff Jago who was responsible for planting cameras in the bush.

Under cross-examination from Iti's lawyer Russell Fairbrother, Mr Jago initially declined to answer questions about the direction he approached a whare nui and a whare kai and said his answer "could compromise operational methods and numbers involved''.

Mr Fairbrother also asked Mr Jago if he was aware that the Air Training Corps (ATC) and the Territorials carried out military manoeuvres with guns. He then asked if there was any prospect that the ATC would go to war.

Mr Jago responded: "I wouldn't expect school children to go to war, no.''

He was asked if he was aware that one of the police cameras was planted on what is known as the Confiscation Line.

The area has important historical significance to the Tuhoe people because it represents the area of land confiscated by the Crown in the 1860s and 1870s when many Tuhoe people had their crops and homes torched.

He said the police made no "conscious decision'' to put the camera on the Confiscation Line.

The trial continues.

- APNZ

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