Witnesses called at gang boss murder trial

By Gisborne Herald

Roderick Bully Cooper is accused of murdering East Coast Mangu Kaha gang chapter boss Tumanako Tauhore. Photo / File
Roderick Bully Cooper is accused of murdering East Coast Mangu Kaha gang chapter boss Tumanako Tauhore. Photo / File

Tumanako Tauhore stormed 52m across a paddock and was 36m short of reaching Roderick Bully Cooper's home when Cooper shot him dead with a high-powered rifle, the High Court at Gisborne has been told.

Cooper, 31, is accused of murdering the East Coast Mangu Kaha gang chapter boss.

Cooper's lawyers Russell Fairbrother and Nicola Wright say Cooper was rightfully defending himself, three other adults and seven children - aged nine months to 16 years.

The teenager was Mr Tauhore's step-daughter, who lived with co-defendant Wiremu Joseph Gary Gladstone, 33, who is also on trial on a charge of recklessly discharging a .22 firearm.

The Crown claims it was Gladstone's drunken challenges to Mr Tauhore's wife at a horse sports event two days earlier that sparked a brewing situation before the shooting.

When the fatal shooting occurred about 7pm on February 16 last year, the Crown says Gladstone was recklessly firing the .22 rifle in the direction of the road where Mr Tauhore's fellow gang members retreated to.

The Cooper property is rural and directly opposite the Te Araroa Motor Camp. There are two houses nearby.

Gladstone, his then 8-months-pregnant partner Mary-Jane Waitoa and their three children, were at the house for safe refuge, defence counsel say.

Gladstone's counsel Tiana Epati said that like Cooper, there was no dispute Gladstone fired shots that evening but he did so only to warn off gang members.

The public gallery was full again for day three of the trial yesterday.

Evidence was heard from six more Crown witnesses.

Conrad Rickard, the man whose .270 bolt action rifle Cooper used, said he took the firearm to the property earlier that evening to put down an ailing and unruly Arab horse.

After Mr Tauhore was shot, he ensured the gun was unloaded and securely back in his vehicle, then waited with all the children inside the house for police to arrive.

During the incident he called 111 and passed the phone to Gladstone. Jurors heard the recorded call in which Gladstone is heard, sounding panicked and agitated, barking information at the operator.

Mr Rickard said he has muscular dystrophy so in effect Cooper and Gladstone were the only able-bodied men in their group that night.

He still felt the effects of a fractured femur caused when one of Mr Tauhore's gang kicked him during the incident.

He was frightened. He knew from stories Mr Tauhore told him while he had earlier carried out mechanical work for him, that Mr Tauhore was a "very serious person"-- not someone to be reckoned with.

He later distanced himself from Mr Tauhore.

The second witness, Cooper's partner Huia Ngatai, said she was not aware of the horse sports incident or the brewing situation between Mr Tauhore and Gladstone before he and his family came to her house that night.

She was baking and attending to other family chores. Cooper had been at work since 4.30am and was tired.

He had been having a cup of tea and had phoned Mr Rickard asking him over to shoot the horse.

When Mr Tauhore arrived, the families' children were playing inside and outdoors. There was little time to round them up.

She and Ms Waitoa advanced towards Mr Tauhore and his group as they neared the house, trying to dissuade them."Everyone was yelling and freaking out," she said.

"We were crying and screaming.

"What stopped him [Tumanako Tauhore] was a loud gunshot. I don't know what direction it came from. I was looking at Tumanako when I heard it. Tumanako dropped to the ground.

"I was confused and scared. It just happened so fast. It was real scary. I can't remember. I was in shock."

"I don't remember hearing other gun shots. It was too noisy [due to the yelling] there was so much going on."

In evidence the day before, Ms Waitoa said she believed Mr Tauhore's anger was directed specifically at Gladstone but Ms Ngatai's evidence was that she felt fearful for everyone on the property.

William James Martin, owner of the Te Araroa holiday camp, and Reremoana Brooking, one of two other nearby residents, each told the court they were alerted by gunshots - particularly a loud one, which Mr Martin said he knew to be from a high-powered rifle.

During a 111 call made by Ms Brooking, the operator was heard reacting with a "wow" and remarking about a loud "explosion" she heard in the background.

Ms Brooking told her it was the same noise as the earlier shot she heard while gardening.

Ms Brooking told the court she believed dog kennels near the road end of her property had been hit by a gunshot.

Detective Glenn Yule said he was present when Gladstone walked police through the scene, including up the steep hill flanking the house.

Acting on information later received by police, Mr Yule recovered a .22 rifle hidden in a tree in neighbouring bush.

Angus Newton, an ESR senior forensic scientist with expertise in firearms, said the .22 and .270 rifles were both fitted with telescopic sights.

The .22 rifle was semi-automatic, capable of firing nine rounds consecutively and had a silencer.

Laser scanning devices were used to take crucial scene measurements.A spent .270 cartridge was found near the house 42.3m from Mr Tauhore's body.

Another spent round, with two unfired rounds, and the bolt for the .270 rifle were on the back of Mr Rickard's vehicle.

The rifle was locked inside it.The distance in a straight line from the house to the front gate, where Mr Tauhore left his vehicle, was 88.5m.

The trampoline, where children were playing when gang members arrived, was 31.9m from the house.

The trial is expected to take two weeks.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 26 Sep 2016 17:31:30 Processing Time: 692ms