Four police officers on trial for assault

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CHARGED: Four police officers charged with assault are on trial in Napier District Court. PHOTO FILE
CHARGED: Four police officers charged with assault are on trial in Napier District Court. PHOTO FILE

A judge and jury have started hearing details of the case against four police officers charged with assaulting a man who died during an arrest at Westshore Beach in Napier early last year.

The names of the officers, each charged with assault with a weapon, are suppressed pending the Napier District Court trial which follows the death of Gregory McPeake, 53, early on the morning of March 13, 2015.

Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk, of Palmerston North, said in an opening address the incident developed after police hunted Mr McPeake following his assault on 76-year-old father Ray McPeake in Hastings earlier in the night.

Mr Vanderkolk told Judge Phillip Cooper, of Rotorua, and a jury of six man and six women police were called to an address in Prospect Rd, Hastings, about 6.15pm on the Thursday of March 12, 2015.

Ray McPeake had been struck with a cosh wielded by his son, who had driven from his home in New Plymouth and stayed at a Hastings motel for three days.

Mr Vanderkolk said Greg McPeake had left the address, and an important aspect of the trial would be the series of police briefings leading up to and surrounding the finding of a silver two-door carrying the wanted man at a carpark just north of the Westshore Surf Lifesaving Club, just before 12.50am.

Informed of the wanted man's possible suicidal tendencies, possible possession of weapons, including a cross-bow, and his possible intentions to kill his father and brother, a police officer placed spikes at the entrances of the car park and retreated to a safe forward point where other police gathered to be briefed on the next steps.

Soon afterwards, commands heard throughout the neighbourhood were made informing Greg McPeake he was under arrest, and directing him to get out of the vehicle and surrender.

When the requests were ignored, six officers, including the accused and including two dog handlers, advanced on the vehicle, which was parked facing the sea.

Three officers went down each flank, with weapons including Tasers, OC spray canisters and batons, while a rifle and a pistol were available. Bolt cutters were used to smash the windows, and the spray and tasers were used on Mr McPeake with apparently little effect.

Dogs also entered the vehicle. Mr McPeake grabbed one by the snout and the other was tangled in the wires from the Tasers, before the man fell out of the vehicle.

Mr Vanderkolk said Mr McPeake immediately became unresponsive and first aid was started, using offices and St John paramedics, but he died at the scene about 2.10am.

Mr Vanderkolk, who was continuing his opening address at midday, emphasised to the jury there was no causal link between "any" of the police actions and the death, and reiterated the point to the jury foreman.

Appearing separately for the defendants are Jonathan Krebs, Doug Rishworth, Rachael Adams and Susan Hughes. There was no indication whether any would also give an opening address.

(Proceeding)

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