A stop-go operator with a "checkered past" who admits he was previously threatened by two Mongrel Mob members has told a court it could have been him who was shot, instead of George Taiaroa.
Michael Pengelly was the third witness to take the stand today during the trial in the High Court at Rotorua of Quinton Winders, the man accused of killing Mr Taiaroa, a stop-go operator, on the afternoon of March 19, 2013, at Atiamuri. Winders has denied the charge.
Mr Pengelly was working with Mr Taiaora the day the father-of-four was shot.
During the cross-examination by Winders' lawyer, Jonathan Temm, it was revealed Mr Pengelly had a previous conviction for a sexual charge involving a young girl.
Mr Temm went on to reveal the young girl was the relative of Mongrel Mob members.
Mr Temm asked Mr Pengelly if he was visited by two Mongrel Mob members at his home, who threatened him.
Mr Pengelly initially said they came to his house to have a conversation but after a tense exchange with Mr Temm he agreed the pair had threatened him and wanted his car.
Mr Temm said Mr Pengelly knew it was "a shocking thing" when Mr Taiaroa was shot and that he remarked at the time "it could have been me".
"It could have happened to anyone, it would have been me if I was on that side of the bridge," Mr Pengelly told the court.
It was not the only tense exchange between Mr Temm and Mr Pengelly. Earlier Mr Temm asked about Mr Pengelly's first statement to police and whether he mentioned the words 'wheel rack' when describing the blue Jeep Cherokee that "flew past" him moments before Mr Taiaroa was shot.
Mr Pengelly said he did mention the wheel rack but could not find the mention in his statement when asked to point it out to the court.
"You make no mention of the wheel rack. What you say is 'a vehicle came flying past me at speed... it was a blue Jeep Cherokee... I know the vehicle had no plates on the back of it, not sure of the year... but had a flat back... I did not see the driver...'
"You didn't mention the word 'wheel rack' in your second statement either," Mr Temm said.
Mr Temm referred to a diagram drawn by Mr Pengelly of the Jeep Cherokee. He accused Mr Pengelly of drawing a wheel on his diagram that was not on the back of the vehicle he saw on March 19.
"I couldn't draw a wheel rack... I'm not a good drawer," Mr Pengelly replied.
Mr Temm continued: "In your third statement you don't mention the words 'wheel rack' at all, do you?
"The first time you mentioned the words 'wheel rack' was today, in this courtroom."
Mr Pengelly, who appeared flustered, replied: "No, I mentioned it before, a long time ago."
"We know you didn't mention it in your first statement, your second statement, your third statement or your diagram," Mr Temm said.
"The only reason you're saying you knew the wheel rack was there was because the police have shown you photos. You've never mentioned the wheel rack in your statements, you never drew it in your diagram. Police showed you photos six weeks ago and then you came into this courtroom and mentioned the wheel rack."
Prior to Mr Temm's cross-examination, Mr Pengelly spoke of a blue Jeep Cherokee that sped past him on March 19, towards Mr Taiaroa's station at the other end of Atiamuri Bridge.
"I went to write down the number plate so I could report it but it had no [number] plate on it.
"I radioed George but he didn't answer - it was unusual for him not to answer... I walked up and saw people running around like headless chickens... I thought 'this isn't right'... I saw George lying on the ground and I thought he had had a heart attack or heat stroke, it was a warm day.
"I ran over to George, I tapped him on the shoulder and said 'George, George', he was looking at me but then he started fading..."
Members of Mr Taiaroa's family silently wept in the public gallery during Mr Pengelly's account.
Craig Clothier, the truck driver who saw Mr Taiaroa get shot, also took the stand today, along with HEB construction superintendent Andy Searancke and stop-go operator Edward Morehu.
The trial, which was set down for four weeks, continues tomorrow.
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