Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Ex takes stand in cold case murder trial

Menzies Hallett. Photo / Christine Cornege
Menzies Hallett. Photo / Christine Cornege

The former wife of a man accused of a 30-year-old murder cold case has told a court he reached "flashpoint" when he was refused oil by the service station worker he allegedly gunned down.

Susan Sharpe was giving evidence today in the High Court at Rotorua, where her former husband Menzies Hallett is on trial for the murder of service station worker Rodney Tahu at Turangi in August 1979.

The Crown alleges Hallett, 72, shot at Mr Tahu three times, missing him once, then hitting him twice, once in the shoulder and then in the head.

Mrs Sharpe, considered the Crown's key witness, told the court Hallett drove to her Wellington home afterward and confessed to her what he had done.

"He said 'Sue ... I've killed someone ... ".

She said Hallett even showed her the revolver he had used, taking it out of his belt, laying it on her bed and saying "there it is".

Hallett had been angered over a custody dispute over their children and had been on his way to Palmerston North to see one of their two daughters.

Mr Tahu's family were heard to sob in the public gallery as Mrs Sharpe told how Hallett had shot Mr Tahu after he had refused him oil for his car as Mr Tahu was closing up the Turangi Shell station just after 1am.

She told how he had called Mr Tahu a "black bastard" and shot at him twice with his revolver, once missing.

Hallett then "walked up to him and stood over him and shot him in the head".

"He said he was at flashpoint ... The service station [worker] took the flashpoint of his anger."

Afterward, she said Hallett "turned around and walked away ... And he couldn't look back after".

Mrs Sharpe said she was familiar with the pistol, saying Hallett had taken it on their honeymoon and had slept with it under his pillow.

It has been admitted Hallett caused Mr Tahu's death, but the pensioner has pleaded not guilty to murder, and his lawyer has told jurors they will have to decide between murder and manslaughter.

At the time of the killing, Ms Sharpe's evidence was ruled inadmissible, as the Evidence Act then stated a wife could not give evidence against her husband in a criminal trial unless she had his permission.

The trial has been a stop-start affair, with it being delayed on the opening day last week.

It was then adjourned until today.

- APNZ

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