Woman pleaded with gang boss to resolve differences with partner

Photo / File
Photo / File

On the day he was fatally shot, a woman pleaded with East Coast Mangu Kaha gang boss Tumanako Tauhore to resolve his differences with her partner, the High Court at Gisborne has heard.

A gang beating would ruin their close-knit families, she told him. But his reply was that he had already ruined his.

Unable to dissuade Mr Tauhore, who was now with several patched gang members from Gisborne, she tried to ring police with her concerns for her partner who was at his forestry job and unable to be contacted.

But there was no answer at the local police station and it took a 111 operator six minutes to ascertain the sole-charge policeman was off-duty.

The operator told her to phone back if there was any incident and meanwhile keep her doors and windows locked.

Mary-Jane Waitoa was giving evidence for the Crown on the second day of a trial of her partner Wiremu Joseph Gary Gladstone, 33, who is charged with recklessly discharging a .22 firearm alongside Roderick Bully Cooper, 31, who allegedly murdered Mr Tauhore with a friend's .270 rifle during the same incident.

The Crown alleges Gladstone incensed Mr Tauhore by challenging his partner Noleen Brooking to a fight when she tried to get car keys off him at an annual horse sports day, where Gladstone had been drinking heavily.

Ms Brooking is Gladstone's partner Ms Waitoa's cousin, with whom she is close.

Her teenage daughter, now 17, lived with Gladstone and Ms Waitoa.

In evidence on day one of the trial, Ms Brooking said although Mr Tauhore was angry with Gladstone, he ultimately resolved to let the matter lie and had been more concerned with organising fellow gang members to assist with his uncle's tangi.

But Ms Waitoa painted a different picture of Mr Tauhore's attitude before his death.

He was hell-bent on getting retribution from her partner Gladstone and had called in his fellow gang members to assist, she said.

She saw him earlier on the day he was shot and pleaded with him to handle matters differently.

Mr Tauhore would not listen, she said. At one point he got out of his car, came up to her with clenched fists and said, "no one tells me what to do".

Feeling "really sick" about the situation and unable to contact Gladstone at work, she tried to call police but received little assistance.

Her recorded 111 call was played in court. There were long silences as Ms Waitoa waited on the line for the operator to ascertain the sole-charge policeman was off-duty.

The operator seemed unaware of the location or nature of Te Araroa. Ms Waitoa told her the nearest other police station was an hour away at Ruatoria.

Later that day, when Gladstone arrived home from work with Cooper (also a cousin of Ms Waitoa), the families decided they should all take refuge that night at Cooper's house.

The house, opposite the Te Araroa camping ground, is visible from the main highway before the road climbs a hill to Hicks Bay.

Ms Waitoa said on arriving she did not go inside but sat outside on the doorstep talking to Cooper's wife Huia Ngatai, and keeping watch on the road for Mr Tauhore's vehicle. Some of the five children at the house were playing on a trampoline in the paddock between the house and the road.

She denied any discussion as to what might ensue should Mr Tauhore turn up.

"The main discussion was that everything would be OK," she said.

She noticed Conrad Rickard's vehicle was at the property. (It was Mr Rickard's .270 rifle that Cooper used about 7pm to shoot Mr Tauhore.)

"I don't really know him (Rickard). I think I might have heard "Bully" (Cooper) talking to him about shooting his horse but didn't see any gun or hear any discussion about them (guns)."

"I know they were going to shoot a horse 'cos it had cancer and they had been meaning to do it for a couple of days."

About 7pm Mr Tauhore, with two vehicles containing gang members, drove down the hill from Hicks Bay, turned around and parked outside the property, Ms Waitoa said.

Mr Tauhore's vehicle was blocking the gate. She could see his 4-year-old daughter in the front seat waving to her children on the trampoline.

Mr Tauhore jumped the gate and began advancing directly towards the house across the paddock. She moved quickly towards him, urging him to go and telling him not to bring his grievance there to the Cooper house.

She was not conscious of who was behind her but looked back and saw Gladstone running through trees on the hill behind the house.

Mr Tauhore, who was being followed by other gang members, had nothing in his hands but was saying, "I can see you, you f***ing ****, I'm gonna kill you, I can see you, I'm gonna get you".

"He was looking up on the hill (behind Cooper's house) towards Wiremu," Ms Waitoa said.

She saw Mr Tauhore trip in a ditch but he continued advancing. He then appeared to be having a heart attack and took a few more steps before falling to the ground. She heard a loud bang.

"I looked around to see who might have had a gun. I thought it was Wiremu. I looked to the hill and saw him holding his gun in the air. I looked back at the house and saw "Bully" standing next to the house but didn't notice anything in his hand. He was standing where I'd been sitting with Huia earlier.

"Wiremu was firing his gun at the same time so I had no idea where the noise was coming from.

"The bigger gun had a different sound. Wiremu's wasn't as loud.

"Wiremu was firing his gun and telling them to 'f*** off'."

She ran to Mr Tauhore and cradled him. She tried to administer CPR but he died.

Gladstone stopped firing when the "boys" (gang members) fled, she said.

The trial is expected to take two weeks.

- Gisborne Herald

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