Murdered road worker George Taiaroa called out "you didn't stop" to a passenger in a car involved in the crash said to be the "inexplicable" reason he was shot to death, a court has been told.

Witness Michelle O'Donnell spoke of getting out of one of the cars involved in the crash, and speaking to Taiaroa and the man accused of his murder, Quinton Paul Winders, within just minutes of each other.

"He said 'you didn't stop' and I said 'you didn't have the sign out'. He was just shaking his head and I thought 'poor guy'."

The recounting of the crash came on the first day of a trial in the High Court at Rotorua, where Winders is charged with the March 19, 2013, murder of Taiaroa. He has pleaded not guilty.

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The crash just off State Highway 1 north of Taupo is a key part of the Crown case against Winders.

It is alleged the minor collision between the car in which O'Donnell was travelling and that driven by Winders' father Max Winders was the "catalyst" for the murder.

O'Donnell said the crash happened after the car in which she was travelling followed a line of traffic down a narrow section of road works on State Highway 1.

When the traffic in front stopped, she turned and saw they had travelled through a stop-go sign - but the sign was leaning against the side of a road works ute.

"If that sign had been put out properly we would have seen it and the accident wouldn't have happened."

She said Winders made a similar comment - that the "accident wouldn't have happened if the road worker had been doing his job properly".

"He wasn't saying it with any malice or anger. He was just saying it."

Crown prosecutor Amanda Gordon focused on the crash when she laid out the Crown case against Winders to the jury of six men and six women.

Quinton Paul Winders in the High Court at Rotorua is on trial for the murder of George Taiaroa. Photo / Stephen Parker
Quinton Paul Winders in the High Court at Rotorua is on trial for the murder of George Taiaroa. Photo / Stephen Parker

She said the minor accident created a connection between the men.

"The defendant had a reason to dislike Mr Taiaroa."

She said Winders and his father Max Winders passed through road works at Atiamuri, driving past the same stop-go sign.

As Max Winders reversed, the stock trailer they were towing hit the car behind.

Gordon said this accident, resulting in $989.58 damage, lay behind Winders' plot to kill Taiaroa.

She said there was evidence showing Winders had tried to avoid accepting responsibility for the crash, possibly on the mistaken belief an insurance claim would be void because of the stock trailer.

And then, she said, even as the insurance claim was settled, Winders moved to kill Taiaroa.

Gordon described the Crown case as circumstantial and said evidence would show both Winders and the killer drove a blue Jeep Cherokee.

The murder, which happened 7 days after the accident, happened at a one-way bridge some witnesses called a "banana bridge" for its shape, said Gordon.

Truck driver Craig Clothier was coming across the bridge when he saw Taiaroa approach a blue Jeep Cherokee, bend down to look in the window and then suddenly straighten, "his body go stiff and then fall back to the ground".

The Jeep drove over the bridge, passing Clothier, who said he thought the stop-go worker had suffered a heart attack.

He stopped to help and "to his horror, he discovered George Taiaroa had a bullet hole in his forehead".

On April 4, 2013, Gordon said Winders was interviewed by police and lied about his movements on the day of Taiaroa's murder, claiming he had collected his Jeep Cherokee from a panelbeater in Stratford and then gone home to Whangamomona.

It was a claim she said was contradicted by CCTV evidence showing him in Taumarunui.

She said there was also evidence he tried to alter the appearance of the Jeep Cherokee, with the CCTV footage from the day of the murder showing a vehicle different from that seized by police 17 days later.

Items missing from the Jeep were later found on land adjacent to Winders' farm near Whangamomona - a tow bar and spare wheel he told police had been stolen.

She also said ballistics evidence would show the bullet recovered from Taiaroa matched a particular type of .22 rifle once owned by Winders - a firearm he told police had also been stolen from him.

Winder's lawyer Jonathan Temm pointed to the Crown's concession that important evidence was missing.

He said there was no motive for Winders to kill Taiaroa, and the claims the crash lay behind it were spurious.

He said it was an accident in which Winders was a passenger, had caused no damage to his father's car and was resolved through insurance before the murder.

He asked the jury to listen closely to evidence from witnesses who had seen the Jeep Cherokee in the area, saying most witnesses identified the driver as Maori.

Temm said the police case required Winders to make a 500km round trip "to kill a man he didn't know" and to time his arrival to coincide with Taiaroa's late return from lunch.

"Police haven't followed the evidence in the case. They've made him a target."

The trial continues.