Stephanie is the Rotorua Daily Post's education and lifestyle reporter.

Taiaroa murder witnesses to take stand today

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Quinton Paul Winders. PHOTO/FILE
Quinton Paul Winders. PHOTO/FILE

At least 10 emergency services workers did not see a blue Jeep Cherokee when responding to the shooting of stop-go worker George Taiaroa in Atiamuri.

A number of witness statements have been read by the High Court registrar for the trial of Quinton Winders.

The first to be read was by volunteer ambulance officer Brenda Chaffe. Her statement was followed by at least nine others, ranging from St John employees to members of the New Zealand Police.

All statements were accounts of the emergency services response on March 19, 2013 when reports were received of a man who had been shot on Tram Rd, Atiamuri.

None of the witnesses recalled seeing a blue Jeep Cherokee.

Following the series of written statements, Constable William Aitken was called to the stand.

Mr Aitken, based in Ohakune, received the report of a shooting in Atiamuri on March 19. He travelled to the scene and was advised to look out for a Jeep Cherokee. He did not see a vehicle matching the description as he travelled to the scene.

In the cross-examination Mr Aitken was questioned by defence counsel Jonathan Temm about his speed and the speed of another marked police vehicle travelling to the scene.

Mr Temm questioned Mr Aitken on the appropriateness of his speed which, at times, reached 130km and whether it was considered appropriate that another police vehicle passed him and left him behind, travelling at a speed in excess of 130km.

Mr Aitken said the speed was considered and acceptable. He said police were trained to travel at speeds in excess of the national speed limits in emergencies.

The trial continues.

A couple returning home to Whakamaru were shocked to see a car hurtling towards them on a one-way bridge before discovering there had been a shooting at the other end, a court has heard.

Richard and Michelle McMeekin were the first two witnesses called on day four of Quinton Winders' trial for the murder of stop-go worker, George Taiaroa.

The couple and their son were travelling on Tram Rd the afternoon Mr Taiaroa was shot. There were among the first to reach Mr Taiaroa and attempt to call 111.

Mr McMeekin gave his evidence first, speaking about the events of March 19, 2013.

"We had stopped at the stop-go sign and was waiting for the logging truck to clear the bridge... Then I saw a dark blue Jeep Cherokee coming over the bridge, speeding towards us."

Mr McMeekin said he did not recall seeing a number plate on the vehicle. He said he often looked at other vehicles' number plates in case they were personalised.

He said in the time it took for the Jeep Cherokee to pass over the bridge he was "more looking at the stop-go man expecting him to tell the guy to slow down".

His description of the driver was European between 25 and 35-years-old, roughly shaven with one or two inches of medium to dark hair.

Crown solicitor Amanda Gordon asked Mr McMeekin what he saw after he had crossed the bridge.

"I saw the logging truck and a man laying on the side of the road... I though he may have been run over...I got out and asked the truck driver what was going on and he told me the guy had been shot.

"I attempted to call 111 but didn't get through so I went over to the man on the ground..."

Mrs McMeekin took the stand after her husband and spoke about how she was taken back to see a blue vehicle come "flying down" the bridge on Tram Rd.

"I mouthed some quite horrible words... I said 'slow the f--- down'... In a controlled area like that with stop-go signs, he was going very fast... You don't expect a car to come flying down, it's a courtesy thing."

Mrs McMeekin described the driver as "quite youngish" with olive skin and a little stubble.

She said he appeared to be the sole occupant of the vehicle.

Once the couple had driven over the bridge Mr McMeekin got out of the car and "screamed" at his wife to ring 111.

"I tried... It didn't seem to want to go through," Mrs McMeekin recalled.

"I went over to check George to see if he was still alive - hoping he was still alive. I tried to feel for a pulse but I was shaking. I put my hand to his lips to see if I could feel any breath but didn't... then he started gurgling so I knew he was still here."

When cross examined by Winders' lawyer Jonathan Temm, Mrs McMeekin confirmed she never heard a gunshot as she sat in her vehicle at the other end of the bridge on Tram Rd.

Mr Temm asserted, confirmed by Mrs McMeekin, that though she referred to the driver's appearance as 'olive skinned' she had also previously described him to police as being of Maori descent.

Mr Temm went on to question Mrs McMeekin's description of Mr Taiaroa's wound.

"You said 'it looks like a slug gun to me'... A male Maori, who was not in your vehicle or from the truck, then said to you 'it was more like a 22'. The truck driver relayed that information on the phone," Mr Temm said.

Mrs McMeekin agreed with the statement.

Constable Joanne McTeague was the next witness called. She was the first police officer at the scene.

She will be cross-examined by Mr Temm when High Court is resumed.

The trial of Quinton Winders, accused of murdering stop-go worker George Taiaroa, will continue today.

Winders, 45, pleaded not guilty in December last year to the murder of Taiaroa, 65, who was shot dead while operating a stop-go sign at roadworks in Atiamuri, north of Taupo, in 2013.

George Taiaroa. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
George Taiaroa. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

HEB construction employees Andy Searancke, Edward Morehu and Michael Pengelly took the witness stand yesterday along with Craig Clothier, the truck driver who saw Taiaroa shot.

Witnesses from the immediate Tram Rd scene are expected to be called today.

It is day four of the trial.

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