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Live updates: George Taiaroa murder trial begins

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Quinton Winders in the High Court at Rotorua this morning.
Quinton Winders in the High Court at Rotorua this morning.

Two women involved in the minor crash described by the Crown as the "catalyst" for the murder of George Taiaroa have taken the stand.

The trial of Quinton Paul Winders, 45, began in the High Court at Rotorua today. He is charged with murdering Mr Taiaroa in Atiamuri on March 19, 2013.

A jury of five men and seven women have been selected.The Crown opened its case this morning, followed by a brief opening address by Winders' lawyer, Jonathan Temm.

The first witness called to the stand was Shane Wilton who was employed by the same company as Mr Taiaroa, HEB Construction.

Michelle O'Donnell and Bridget Scully were the Crown's second and third witnesses.

The pair, along with a third, were in a car that was backed into by Mr Winders' father Max Winders on State Highway 1 on March 12, 2013. Winders was in the car with this father.

Ms O'Donnell detailed how the crash happened and the exchanges that followed with Winders and his father.

She said the son, who she did not recall giving her his first name, "took the lead, acting on the behalf of his father".

Ms O'Donnell said it was during this interaction Winders said the crash would not have happened if [Mr Taiaroa] was doing his job properly.

"He didn't say it with any malice or anger, he just stated it," she said.

When prompted by Crown prosecutor Chris Macklin, she said she agreed with Winders' statement as she felt the same way.

When asked about she or any other passengers in her vehicle considered taking the incident further, she said they had "discussed contacting the construction company about their worker not doing his job properly".

Ms O'Donnell said upon talking to Mr Taiaroa after the crash she "felt sorry for him".

She said the exchange with Mr Taiaroa was not an angry one and described him as seeming like "a real sweetie".

Mr Temm went on to question Ms O'Donnell, reiterating the events before, during and after the crash.

He asked her whether it was Winders who said the crash would not have happened if Mr Taiaroa was doing his job properly.

He stated others in the car had made the same comment, as was evident in the other two passengers' statements, and wanted to clarify her certainty that Winders also said it.

"I also recall Quinton saying it very clearly... I'm 100 per cent sure," Ms O'Donnell said.

Ms Scully was called to the stand but did not finish giving her evidence before the end of the first day of the trial.

She will return tomorrow to continue giving her evidence.

Winders was remanded back into custody.

The defence case for the man accused of murdering stop-go worker George Taiaroa will centre around whether the murder accused was driving the vehicle on the night of the killing.

Quinton Paul Winders, 45, has appeared in the High Court at Rotorua today for the opening of his trial where he faces one charge of murder.

A jury of five men and seven women have been selected. The Crown has opened its case this morning.

Winders' lawyer, Jonathan Temm, gave a brief opening address for the defence following the lunch break today when he told the jury the Crown would need to prove beyond reasonable doubt Mr Winders was the driver of the blue Jeep Cherokee that was seen on the night Mr Taiaroa was killed, on March 19 2013.

Mr Temm said issues in the Crown's case included disparities around the vehicle's description and the driver's description.

"The Crown has spoke about one witness describing a Jeep Cherokee driving erratically, speeding right up behind her then dropping back. What the Crown didn't include was her description of the man.

"She described the man as a big, broad male Maori ... most witnesses describe the driver as Maori ... "

He urged the jury to keep an open mind during the trial and that the starting position was that Winders was innocent.

Earlier this afternoon, Crown solicitor Amanda Gordon told the jury part of the Crown's evidence centred around 'propensity evidence' and aimed to show Winders' tendency to overreact to the behaviour of others.

"In the past [Winders] has reacted to the behaviour of others by shooting towards them."

Ms Gordon said Winders lied during an interview with police on April 4, 2013. She said he spoke about a range of things, including the events of March 12, the firearms in his possession and his Jeep Cherokee.

His Jeep was found by police in the garage of his parents' home. A number of items had been removed from the vehicle, including the tow-bar, the spare wheel, the mud flaps and the gold insignia JEEP from the front of the vehicle, above the grill.

Ms Gordon said Winders, when interviewed by police, said he did not and had never had a tow-bar.

"However, a tow-bar is clearly seen in CCTV footage taken in Taumarunui mere hours before the shooting on March 19."

The High Court registrar also read out a statement written by Mr Taiaroa's daughter, Rochai Taiaroa.

In the statement she described her father as a loving husband and father who was a "fantastic provider" and "avoided conflict wherever possible".

Ms Gordon today called her first witness, Shane Christopher Wilton. Mr Wilton was employed by Heb Construction, the same company that employed Mr Taiaroa.

Ms Gordon's line of questioning included Mr Taiaroa's job description, his daily routine, including start time, breaks and finishing time, the events of March 12 when Winders and his father were involved in a minor crash and the reporting of Mr Taiaroa's death on March 19.

A minor traffic accident was the catalyst to the murder of Atiamuri stop-go worker George Taiaroa, a jury has heard.

Quinton Paul Winders, 45, has appeared in the High Court at Rotorua today for the opening of his trial where he faces one charge of murder.

A jury of five men and seven women have been selected. Winders has pleaded not guilty.

Crown solicitor Amanda Gordon started the trial with her opening statements, painting Winders as a man who was "inexplicably" led to murder following a minor accident that "played on his mind" for a week.

Ms Gordon told the jury about the accident on March 12, which the Crown considers to be the catalyst to Mr Taiaroa's death.

Winders and his father Max Winders were moving stock between their two farms, one in Taranaki and one in Rotorua. They were travelling along State Highway 30 ... and when they turned onto State Highway 1, they found the road had been reduced to one lane.

Max Winders was driving and overshot the stop-go sign being controlled by Mr Taiaroa. The stop sign was propped up by an orange cone and Mr Taiaroa was sitting on the back of his ute close by.

He reversed the car and trailer back but did not see another car had come up behind them. There was a minor crash with minimal damage.

Numbers were exchanged for insurance purposes and a witness would later come forward to say Winders made the comment that 'if the stop-go guy had done his job properly the accident would not have happened'.

It was this incident Ms Gordon claims "played on [Winders'] mind" until he travelled back on March 18.

On March 19 2013, Mr Taiaroa was working as a stop go worker, also known as a lollipop man. A blue Jeep Cherokee pulled up to where Mr Taiaroa was working.

Mr Taiaroa was seen by a truck driver leaning forward, towards the vehicle's window before immediately falling to the ground. Mr Taiaroa was described as falling backwards without stopping or breaking his fall.

The truck driver who "to his horror"discovered Mr Taiaroa with a bullet hole in his forehead, then saw the Jeep speeding away and out of sight.

Ms Gordon said it was up to the jury to decide beyond reasonable doubt, the driver of the blue Jeep Cherokee was the defendant, Winders.

Ms Gordon also talked about various witnesses seeing a blue Jeep Cherokee driving erratically with one witness telling police it would speed up, get right behind her then drop back, doing this several times.

Ms Gordon will continue giving a summary of the police investigation after High Court is back in session.

The trial is set down to last four weeks.

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