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

Stop-go murder trial: jury retired for deliberation

Quinton Paul Winders (centre). PHOTO/FILE
Quinton Paul Winders (centre). PHOTO/FILE

The jury has retired to decide the fate of Quinton Winders, the man accused of murdering George Taiaroa, a stop-go worker who was "a lovely man by all accounts".

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

The trial has run for five weeks with the jury hearing from more than 150 witnesses, visiting key locations in and around the crime scene and examining Winders' blue Jeep Cherokee.

Earlier today Justice Kit Toogood made his final remarks which fell into four parts: Matters of general importance, the law relating to a murder charge, evidence given in the trial and how the jury should approach its consideration to it and procedural matters, including how to go about deliberation.

In summarising the Crown's case, Justice Toogood said Crown prosecutor Amanda Gordon had strongly argued a number of points.

"Ms Gordon has argued the Crown's case is about separate, crucial pieces of evidence that link Winders to the case."

These include Winders' blue Jeep Cherokee the Crown says is a major common thread, evidence proving Winders could have been at the scene at the right time, his ownership of a registered rifle that could have been used as the murder weapon and his recent contact with Taiaroa through a minor crash on March 12, 2013.

Justice Toogood said Winders' lawyer Jonathan Temm made a forceful assertion his client was framed by police.

"The defence has exposed in this trial potential lines of inquiry that could have been followed by police but were abandoned when the decision was made to focus on Winders at a early stage."

He said Mr Temm was also highly critical of police conduct during the investigation, including Winders' forceful arrest on April 4 for reckless driving and the following police interview focusing on the murder investigation.

Justice Toogood stressed during his address the importance the jury exercised caution when weighing up individual accounts of evidence.

He said experience had proved it was possible for a perfectly honest witness to make a mistake when recalling an event.

He used the example of stop-go operator Michael Pengelly who mentioned a wheel rack on the Jeep Cherokee for the first time during his evidence in the trial. It was during cross-examination Mr Temm brought to attention that Mr Pengelly had never mentioned a wheel rack in any of his three prior police statements.

"An honest witness may be a mistaken witness but still be convincing. That is something for [the jury] to consider carefully when looking at the evidence."

Justice Toogood said Mr Temm made a particularly strong submission that many of the witnesses had at some point described the driver of the blue Jeep Cherokee as either Maori or part-Maori.

Mr Temm drew the jury's attention to Winders' parents who were both born in England and described Winders as a "skinny white boy".

Justice Toogood said Mr Temm asserted if the driver was a Maori, it simply could not have been Winders.

He said that was for the jury to decide but to keep in mind the Crown did not have to prove every strand of their evidence.

Justice Toogood addressed the police interview with Winders on April 4 which was considered a major piece of evidence both counsels discussed.

He said the jury needed to study the transcript of that interview carefully.

He said it needed to consider what, if any effect, the forceful arrest had on Winders when it came to the questioning.

The forceful arrest refers to Winders being tackled by an Armed Offender's Squad member in Repco for reckless driving

Justice Toogood said it was also for the jury to decide whether there was any sign in Winders' vagueness of his movements on March 19 after he picked up his car from the Stratford panel beaters.

"Was he lying in the interview as the Crown suggests or was he a man being interviewed by an experienced police officer about his movements without any prompts to help him recall."

Justice Toogood said the final question was about motive.

"Why would anyone want to kill Mr Taiaroa - a lovely man by all accounts, a bit of a character."

He said the Crown did not have to determine a motive but it asserts there was, at the very least, a connection between Mr Taiaroa and Winders, by way of the minor crash on March 12.

"Does that [crash] provide an explanation for something otherwise inexplicable? That's for [the jury] to decide.

"Mr Temm says there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that."

Before allowing the jury to retire for deliberation Justice Toogood said they had as much time as they needed to reach a decision and should not be rushed.

For more articles from this region, go to

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

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

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 05 Dec 2016 06:17:02 Processing Time: 693ms