David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Stop-go murder trial: 'The guy's just been shot' witness heard

George Taiaroa was killed in March 2013.
George Taiaroa was killed in March 2013.

One of the first people to reach slain road worker George Taiaroa has spoken of the moments after the father-of-four was shot dead.

"This guy's just been shot," Andy Searancke recalled the shouted words during the second day of a High Court murder trial.

The words came from one of the two men next to Taiaroa's body, sprawled where he had been controlling traffic with his stop-go sign at one end of a single-lane bridge near Atiamuri, 30km north of Taupo.

Searancke told the High Court in Rotorua: "I remember thinking, 'you must be joking', but it was no joke."

He said the same man then shouted: "It was a blue Jeep Cherokee."

George Taiaroa was killed on March 19, 2013, with the blue Jeep Cherokee a focus of police inquiries and now the prosecution of Quinton Paul Winders, 45.

The Crown claims Winders was the person in the Jeep Cherokee. He denies the charge.

Searancke told the court how disbelieving he was over the claim Taiaroa had been shot, having spoken to him within the hour.

"You don't come across this every day," he told the court.

The evidence followed the revelation of a sophisticated bugging operation carried out by police in their hunt for Taiaroa's killer.

Defence counsel Jonathan Temm had been quizzing Detective Steven Lockett about the number of legal orders obtained by police in its investigation into Winders when he began asking about an "interception operation".

Temm asked: "Did you know listening devices had been placed in vehicles belonging to the Winders family? That they had listening devices placed in their home? Their telephone and the telephones of friends of theirs?"

Lockett said he knew no details about the interception operation - only of its existence.

Temm said some information obtained from the bugging operation had then been used to obtain production orders - a new term for search warrants - with four police officers making almost 150 legal requests for information.

"You hit it out of the park," Temm told Lockett of his own efforts. "You made 52 applications."

Police sought information on Winders and family members from banks, insurance companies, Winders' university and high school and other places. Their efforts also included seeking information from phone companies which showed the location of phones when they were being used.

Quinton Paul Winders (centre) appears in the High Court at Rotorua. Photo / Alan Gibson
Quinton Paul Winders (centre) appears in the High Court at Rotorua. Photo / Alan Gibson

The Crown has described its case as circumstantial and there was no suggestion in its opening on Monday of any evidence obtained through the interception operation.

Temm has told the court police narrowed its focus on Winders too early.

Further evidence was also heard relating to the accident which took place seven days before Taiaroa was killed, which the Crown says was a "catalyst" for the murder.

In the Crown's opening, prosecutor Amanda Gordon claimed Winders contrived a plan to avoid accepting responsibility for the accident, over which he was said to blame Taiaroa.

She said Winders' plan went as far as a script kept next to his parents' telephone telling anyone calling about an accident they had the wrong number.

The court was told of the difficulty the Telstar owner had getting hold of Winders' father Max Winders by telephone to get the insurance process started. Evidence was produced showing eight calls were made from the car owner to Max Winders.

There was also a recording played of Max Winders making an insurance claim in which he appears to blame the Telstar for crashing into him, before then changing his story to say he had reversed into the car.

The accident took place at road works on State Highway 1 on March 12, 2013.

Winders' father Max Winders was travelling with his son through the road works, passing Taiaroa's stop-go sign. The court has been told it was leaning against a ute and Taiaroa was sitting on the back of the ute.

Faced with oncoming traffic, Max Winders reversed and the trailer he was towing collided with a Toyota Telstar behind his vehicle. The Crown claims Winders festered over the accident, blaming Taiaroa because he was not standing and holding the sign.

The trial continues.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 28 Oct 2016 22:42:43 Processing Time: 525ms