Harris denies murder charge

By Imran Ali -
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Murder-accused Paul Edward Harris during his trial in the High Court at Whangarei. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Murder-accused Paul Edward Harris during his trial in the High Court at Whangarei. Photo / Michael Cunningham

A Northland man out shooting possums with his family at night was confronted by a neighbour who tried to wrestle a slug gun off the hunter before stabbing him, a jury has heard.

Paul Edward Harris, 51, is on trial in the High Court at Whangarei after he denied one charge of murdering Joseph Rowland Keogh near Kaitaia last year.

A six women, six men jury will hear evidence against Harris during the trial which is expected to last three weeks.

Crown prosecutor Bernadette O'Connor told the jury Mr Keogh set out possum shooting in his Mitsubishi Pajero with his three children and a sister on the evening of April 11, 2015.

The family visited a couple of friends on the way before driving to Fisher-Riley Rd where they intended to spot possums.

Ms O'Connor said, from his home, Harris saw a spotlight used by Mr Keogh during possum shooting and decided to hop on to his quad bike and check it out.

Harris drove up to the Pajero, approached Mr Keogh who was in the vehicle and demanded he hand over his gun to him, she told the jury.

Mr Keogh replied he had not been shooting stock but possums and only had a slug gun on him.

Ms O'Connor said Harris continued to demand the gun and as Mr Keogh showed it to him, he grabbed it and both men struggled with it.

She said Harris was pulling the slug gun and hitting Mr Keogh and at some stage pulled a knife and struck Mr Keogh around the body and chest area.

Mr Keogh's 10-year-old son hit Harris and told him to leave his father alone, she said.

Ms O'Connor said Mr Keogh fell out of his vehicle and Harris got on his quad bike and tried to run him over but the quad bike flipped.

The injured man's sister drove the Pajero back to a house from where Mr Keogh was transferred to another vehicle and rushed to the Kaitaia Hospital in an unconscious and unresponsive state. He died later that evening.

Police investigating the murder of 29-year-old Joseph Rowland Keogh, who suffered fatal injuries in Kaitaia in April 2015.
Police investigating the murder of 29-year-old Joseph Rowland Keogh, who suffered fatal injuries in Kaitaia in April 2015.

Ms O'Connor said the knife used to stab him went 10cm to 15cm inside his body and through his heart. The knife has never been recovered.

Harris drove back home and told his family he thought he may have hurt a man who attacked him, she said.

To hide his crime, she said Harris removed a number of firearms from a safe and transferred them to a shed, ripped out CCTV recording equipment and hid it in grass under an animal shelter, and changed the clothes he was wearing.

The Crown alleged Harris said to his son the less evidence police found, the better.

Police recovered the firearms and the CCTV recording equipment but no evidence of significance was retrieved.

Ms O'Connor said Harris claimed self-defence but his actions constituted anger.

She said Mr Keogh and his children were no threat to Harris.

Defence lawyer Arthur Fairley said Harris did not have to prove he acted in self-defence.

"They [the Crown] have to prove he wasn't," Mr Fairley told the jury in his brief opening address.

There is a possibility the jury will be taken to the scene where Mr Keogh was stabbed.

Justice John Faire advised the jury to keep an open mind throughout the trial and not to do their own research about the case.

"Mr Harris is entitled to be tried solely on what you see and hear in this court and in light of any legal directions given in this court," he said.

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