Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Ashburton Work and Income shooting: Worker describes moment bullet brushed passed her

Russell John Tully was removed from court this morning after an outburst. Photo / Pool
Russell John Tully was removed from court this morning after an outburst. Photo / Pool

A Work and Income worker has today described the terrifying moment a masked gunman fired a shot at her, feeling the "whoosh" of the bullet passing her head "like somebody blowing on my cheek".

At 9.51am on September 1, 2014, Ashburton Winz case manager Kim Adams had just finished a client meeting at her desk, filing some paperwork, when she heard "a huge explosion".

She thought that receptionist Peg Noble had perhaps knocked something over.

But as she turned she saw a gunman she told the double-murder High Court trial of Russell John Tully in Christchurch this afternoon.

"I got such a fright because I realised what was happening... not just Peg knocking something over," Ms Adams said.

"As I moved, I've seen him pull back and I felt a swish past my face, really quite close."

Explaining her close call with death to the jury, she later described the sound as a "swoosh" and a "whoosh".

"It felt like somebody blowing on my cheek, really quite windy... like 'phew' past my face."

Ms Adams ran for a rear exit.

As she pushed a button to flee the building, she turned back to see the gunman "moving down the office ... firing".

Ms Adams told the court she was 5ft 2in tall.

Crown prosecutor Andrew McRae earlier told the jury in his opening address that the bullet aimed at her had penetrated the rear wall, gone through a second wall, and embedded in a tree outside - at the height of 5ft 4in off the ground.

Ms Adams says she heard 3-4 gunshots inside the office.

After running out of the building, she was screaming and didn't know where to run as she wasn't sure where she would be safe.

Ms Adams then ran to a nearby medical centre. She didn't see the gunman again.

After the shooting, she says she went into a state of shock.

She also told the court that she knew Tully as a Winz client, describing him as "intimidating" and someone who "never took no".

Security didn't see the gunman enter the building

Armourguard security guard Neville Tahere was posted to Ashburton Winz for around two-and-a-half years before the shooting.

Mr Tahere kept a daily logbook. On August 7, 2014 he wrote that Tully had "done his bun".

The following day when Tully appeared at the office, a trespass notice was served on him, which was effective for two years.

When Tully showed up again on August 29, Mr Tahere explained that he couldn't come in.

Tully asked to speak with the case manager, who was Ms Adams that day, Mr Tahere said.

Ms Adams told them that she was phoning the police and Tully left, the court heard.

Mr Tahere was at his security station, in the reception area, on the day of the shooting.

But he didn't see the gunman enter the building.

The killer was near the reception desk, lifting a gun when he saw him, aiming it "deliberately" before he "shot at Peg [Noble]".

"I thought the lights had dimmed after he had fired a shot. It was hazy," Mr Tahere said.

"He walked on from the door towards the back of the building. He stopped and turned around, facing the centre of the room and fired another shot."

A Winz client then nudged him and said, "C'mon, let's go", before they both fled the building.

Mr Tahere then saw the gunman leave before mounting a black mountainbike while a member of the public threatened and shouted at him.

The security guard then went back inside the building, the court heard.

As he entered the foyer, Mr Tahere says he heard a wounded Ms Curtis yelling, "My leg, my leg".

Another case manager was "swearing and cursing" and asking if anyone had called the police, Mr Tahere said.

As he locked the front doors, before police arrived, he says he found a spent shotgun shell in the reception area.

Witness: 'He lifted his gun and fired it

Earlier a woman described the moment the masked gunman walked into the Ashburton Work and Income centre, which made her "freeze" and stand still.

Lucy Annabel Waller went to the Winz office on Cass St on the morning of the shooting to drop off a form.

While waiting in line at reception, she saw a man walk in wearing a black balaclava, in a slightly "wonky" fashion, and holding a gun down the right side of his body, with the barrel pointing to the floor.

"I just froze and stood still," she told day four of the High Court trial in Christchurch of double-murder accused Russell John Tully.

Ms Waller, a sport trap shooter, described the gun as being a semi-automatic shotgun with a short barrel, approximately 40cm long, which looked as if it had been "cut off".

She also described the gunman's skin as having "blotchy red patches" on his neck and hands.

When the gunman walked in, he "had his eye on the receptionist [Noble] the whole time", Ms Waller said.

He walked past her - coming within 1m of her - very briskly and calmly, she said.

"He lifted his gun and fired it at the receptionist," Ms Waller told the court.

She didn't think that the receptionist was aware of the gunman.

After witnessing the blast, Ms Waller ran from the building and across the road to her parked car.

The last thing she recalls is hearing the receptionist scream, the court heard.

As she ran out of the building she heard another gunshot, and as she was crossing the road "another one or two" shots.

She then drove to the nearby police station.

At 9.51am on September 1, 2014, a masked gunman walked into the Ashburton Winz office and shot and killed receptionist Peggy Turuhira Noble, 67, and case manager Susan Leigh Cleveland, 55.

Tully denies being the shooter. He also denies attempting to murder two fellow workers Lindy Louise Curtis and Kim Elizabeth Adams and other charges that include two counts of unlawful possession of firearms, and one of setting a man trap.

Tully removed from court after outburst

This morning the court heard that Tully allegedly threatened a Winz manager with legal action before hanging up on her just three days before the killings.

Tully was a "difficult" client who appeared almost daily at the Ashburton Winz office, often without an appointment, Hornby Heartland's Winz service centre manager Olivia Monk told the court.

He was soon trespassed from the office for his behaviour, the court has heard.

Ms Monk said she first became aware of Tully when colleagues at the Rangiora service centre let her know that a man was moving to her district who had been "so difficult to deal with".

Tully made numerous applications for grants and benefits, she said.

After he was trespassed in early August, Tully phoned the Winz contact centre to complain he was declined an appointment, Ms Monk said.

Ms Monk says she explained the reasons he'd been trespassed. Tully then threatened her with a lawyer and the hung up on her, the jury was told.

She also said Tully had written to Work and Income on two occasions, signing off only as 'X'.

On the second occasion, he wrote to say he wished he would only see Jane Hayman as he had had problems with a "Lee Adams".

Ms Monk said there was nobody at the centre by that name, and she took it that Tully meant either Ms Cleveland or Ms Adams.

Tully, 49, was removed from court this morning after his second outburst before the jury claiming that his trial is "fixed".

At the start of the day's proceedings, Tully interrupted to say, "Excuse me your honour, I require to go see a doctor".

Justice Cameron Mander repeatedly asked him to be quiet.

But Tully said that he needed a doctor, and that he has been asking to see one for six months.

Tully claimed he has been on a hunger strike for two weeks.

He also said he needed a lawyer and claimed that he has not received any disclosure.

Tully is not be represented in court by his own defence counsel. Instead is legally assisted by two amicus, or friends of the court, lawyers Phil Shamy and James Rapley.

While Justice Mander tried to warn Tully to be quiet, he repeatedly claimed that the judge is corrupt.

"Trial fixing by Judge Mander," said Tully who was restrained in a wheelchair surrounded by prison guards.

After three minutes, he was removed from court.

Tully was ejected from court on day two last week after a similar outburst.

Justice Mander today repeated his directions to the jury to ignore that outburst.

He said there was a "background" to Tully's conduct in court today, but he told the jury that it was not relevant to their task.

The judge instructed the jury to simply concentrate on the evidence.

Identification of the masked gunman is key to the trial, the trial has heard.

The Crown says evidence that the shooter is Tully is "overwhelming".

Three witnesses this morning gave evidence relating to security camera footage from around Ashburton which shows the alleged shooter cycling around the town on the day of the murders.

Ashburton's East Street Pharmacy store manager Barbara Glassey said a man she knew as being Tully after seeing him in a local newspaper article complaining about his homelessness situation came in regularly.

He always wore a beanie and bought bottles of six per cent hydrogen peroxide in cash, she told the court.

Tully was "quite chatty some days", she said.

But on the morning of September 1, 2014, when Tully came into the pharmacy at around 9.15am - 36 minutes before it's alleged he walked into the Winz centre with a gun - he bought his peroxide but "didn't say anything at all to me, which I thought was quite unusual".

"I just thought he was a having bad day," Ms Glassey said.

The trial continues.

How the trial has unfolded so far

•Wednesday, Day One: The trial begins in the absence of the accused, Russell John Tully. The Crown outlines its case, saying Tully had been unhappy with the service he got from Ashburton Winz staff and entered the office at 9.51am on September 1, 2014, with the intention of shooting all of the staff dead. Identification of the shooter is key to the trial. But the Crown says it has "overwhelming" evidence that it is Tully.

•Thursday, Day Two: The jury gets its first glimpse of Tully, albeit briefly. After an angry outburst, where he claimed he is not fit to stand trial, Tully who is restrained in a wheelchair, is removed from the courtroom. Justice Cameron Mander instructs the jury to ignore the "pantomime" and to focus solely on the evidence. Winz assistant manager Jaimee Sarah Carrodus described Tully as a "very demanding ... manipulative" client who was "quietly intimidating to staff".

•Friday, Day Three: Tully not present in court. Ashburton signwriter identifies distinctive "inX" stickers that Tully allegedly labelled his possessions, including a shotgun and shotgun cartridges, as being "identical" to ones he earlier made for a man matching Tully's description. Electrician Peter Sullivan said he saw a masked gunman walking quickly towards the Winz office. About 45 seconds later, four people exit the office "running for their lives", later followed by the gunman. One of the fleeing men chases the gunman, yelling "You bloody bastard, you blew her to bits".

•Monday, Day Four: Accused Tully removed from court after his second outburst. Winz case manager Kim Adams recalls being shot at and feeling "whoosh" of bullet past her face. As she runs for exit, sees gunman walking through the office firing. Armourguard security guard Neville Tahere and member of the public Lucy Annabel Waller both tell how they saw receptionist Peg Noble being shot and killed from close range.

- NZ Herald

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