Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Russell John Tully still claiming innocence as he awaits sentence for Winz shooting

Russell John Tully in the High Court at Christchurch. Photo / File
Russell John Tully in the High Court at Christchurch. Photo / File

Russell John Tully was found hiding under a hedge. He didn't put up a fight. Prison sources say he doesn't like pain.

He was found with a dismantled shotgun, along with shells that matched ones left at the Ashburton Work and Income office bloodbath, and a piece of paper with the names of two targeted Winz workers written on it alongside the word "discrimination".

Police also found a distinctive green jacket, identical to the one the masked gunman is seen wearing on CCTV footage shooting dead Winz receptionist Peggy Noble, 67, and case manager Leigh Cleveland, 55.

DNA also put Tully at the scene - the same place he had just been trespassed from after threatening, bullying behaviour.

But Tully says he didn't do it. There must be a killer still on the loose.

During his two-week trial, he claimed the process was fixed, the judge corrupt.

The jury disagreed.

Today, in the High Court at Christchurch, Tully will be sentenced for the cold-blooded killings.

Ms Cleveland's elderly mother, Kathleen, says 50-year-old Tully should never see the light of day again.

"He took away about 30 years of my daughter's life, and about 20 [years] of Peg's, so he should go away forever."

It's likely that the Crown will push for a starting point of at least 25 years in jail for the September 1, 2014, double murder.

Tully has indicated that he will appeal against his conviction and any sentence.

He continues to say he is innocent.

But the evidence at trial was overwhelming.

The Crown told the court Tully had become "worked up" about perceived injustices over his treatment by Winz and its staff.

It said he went to the Cass St office on the day of the murders intent on "killing them all".

At 9.51am, a masked gunman is seen on CCTV footage walking into the building.

Footage of the shootings taken from 12 closed-circuit security cameras inside the government office make for chilling, haunting viewing.

Tully doesn't hesitate to blast Ms Noble from close range as she sits behind the front desk.

Tully at the High Court. Photo / File
Tully at the High Court. Photo / File

He immediately moves further inside the open-plan building.

He sees Kim Adams, the case manager who once stayed late to process yet another of his benefit demands -- and fires at her.

She feels the blast "whoosh" past her cheek.

Tully wasn't done there. He spotted case manager Lindy Curtis huddling under a desk with terrified client Tristan Gibson.

Ms Curtis saw the gun being pointed at her head. As he fired, she reactively lifted her left leg in a futile attempt at shielding the blow. More than 170 pellets splattered into the outside of her left thigh.

She feared the killer would want to finish her off. So, she played dead. She then heard a colleague plead for her life.

It was Ms Cleveland, the case manager Tully had dealt with the most over the previous months. Her name, along with Ms Adam's, would be found scrawled alongside the word "discrimination" on a handwritten note in Tully's possession when he was arrested by armed police.

When Tully spotted Ms Cleveland, she pleaded for her life: "Please, I beg you, I beg you, you don't have to hurt us ..." Then he shot her.

On the CCTV footage, you see the shot fired. Tully turns to leave but appears distracted by a noise coming from Ms Cleveland. He immediately moves closer to her. He fires twice more, in quick succession. Bang. Bang. Once satisfied she is dead, he quickly but calmly walks out of the building, the shots ringing in the air.

Local resident David Cooze, who had seen Ms Noble being killed, challenged the fleeing gunman, causing him to leave behind a bike helmet.

A DNA expert who analysed the helmet cited "extremely strong" scientific evidence linking it to Tully.

The weight of evidence against Tully was "overwhelming", the Crown said. And if he really was innocent, why was he found during a massive manhunt cowering beneath a hedge outside Ashburton? Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh put to the jury during his closing address.

"If he had done nothing wrong, why is he hiding? The answer is simple: he's hiding because he is trying to escape after a shooting and he knows that police are looking for him."

- NZ Herald

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