Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Stop-go trial: Car forced off the road minutes after George Taiaroa was shot dead

Quinton Paul Winders is on trial in the High Court at Rotorua. Photo / Stephen Parker
Quinton Paul Winders is on trial in the High Court at Rotorua. Photo / Stephen Parker

The driver of a dark blue Jeep Cherokee was going so fast around a bend he forced an oncoming car off the road, minutes after stop-go worker George Taiaroa was shot.

Delena Morunga was in the other car on Tirohanga Rd on her way home from work at 3.25pm on March 19, 2013.

Morunga told the High Court at Rotorua, where Quinton Winders is on trial for the murder of Taiaroa, the driver was a biggish-built Maori or Pacific Island man wearing a red cap, dark sunglasses and a white tee-shirt.

The Tokoroa woman said she was too busy swearing to notice whether the vehicle had tinted windows or registration plates.

"I was pissed off. He was going way too fast. There was no need for that speed. There was no-one else on the road."

She said she knew it was a Jeep Cherokee because she owned one at the time.

Morunga said the driver was gripping the steering wheel hard to prevent from "wiping out" and she came face-to-face with him as they passed "in slow motion".

Earlier a farm worker who spotted a navy blue Jeep Cherokee moments after Taiaroa was shot, assumed it was a "pretty flash looking farm truck" because it had no front registration plate.

George Taiaroa George was shot and killed near Kinleith in March 2013. Photo / Supplied
George Taiaroa George was shot and killed near Kinleith in March 2013. Photo / Supplied

Amy Seymour was on her way to a farm run-off on Tram Rd near Atiamuri when the Jeep sped past the "beat-up" Nissan Terrano farm vehicle she was driving on Tirohanga Rd.

She told the court the Jeep was in good condition, had tinted windows and only one registration plate on the back.

Earlier in the fifth day of the trial farmer Andrew Parker told of the moment he tried to allow a Jeep to overtake his tractor that afternoon.

Parker said the early 90s Jeep, which he described as forest green in colour, was parked half on the road and half off as he approached the Tram Rd bridge.

Further up the road and as he rounded a bend Parker drifted across the centreline.

Embarrassed he swerved left and slowed down to allow the Jeep, now behind him, to pass but instead the Jeep dropped back.

"So I slowed down more and put one wheel onto the grass... and then the Jeep hung back so I thought 'stuff this' and planted my foot."

He told the court he thought it strange the driver did not want to pass a tractor doing 65km/h on the open road.

Parker then turned onto Tram Rd and came upon Taiaroa, who he had nicknamed "the chilly bin man" because the grandfather regularly had the tail gate of his ute down with a chilly bin on the back.

As he slowed to cross the one-lane bridge he saw a Rotorua Forest Haulage truck and other traffic at the opposite end.

Moments later Taiaroa was shot in the head.

Winders' lawyer Jonathan Temm made a point of twice leading Parker back to his description of the Jeep, as "dark forest green".

"It remains your position today?" Temm asked. "You were shouting at the TV [news, later that night] it was a green Jeep?"

"Yes," Parker answered.

He never heard a gunshot or any other noise from outside because of the noise of the tractor, stereo and air-conditioning.

Meanwhile a motorist described how a blue Jeep followed her so closely earlier that day from Taumarunui it frightened her.

Karen Illston told the court the older-style navy blue Jeep came speeding up behind her as she left the town about 1.30pm.

"I actually thought it was going to run into the back of me at times," Illston said.

She said the driver had black hair and she assumed he was a large-built Maori because of the colour of his arms, but she did not see his face.

It wasn't until the pair turned off to Tokoroa that the Jeep eventually passed Illston, who arrived at the Tram Rd bridge about 3.20pm to find traffic backed up and a truck stopped on the bridge.

Illston got out of her rental car and asked the truck driver what was wrong.

He said "A man's been shot", and Illston replied "What, with a gun?".

The driver said yes and Illston asked if the victim was ok.

"He said 'no'."

Under cross-examination Temm pointed out that once the Jeep passed her it disappeared and Illston never saw it again, meaning it could have taken any number of access roads before she reached the Tram Rd bridge.

- NZ Herald

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