Highway 61 quartet deny murder charge

The former Auckland president, and three other members of the Highway 61 motorcycle club, yesterday pleaded not guilty to the murder of a man on a roadside near Thames last year.

The Crown alleges that Damian Montgomery Povey, aged 35, was killed when he was fatally stabbed during a confrontation with the four accused on State Highway 25 in the Kopu industrial area on December 2.

Frederick David Howard, a 42-year-old Kopu sickness beneficiary, Vance Raymond Tohaia, a 22-year-old unemployed man from Whangamata, Stephen William Claude, a 41-year-old Thames mechanic, and Gregory Ross Burkitt, a 21-year-old Waitoa storeman, have been jointly charged with Mr Povey's murder and the subsequent wilful damage of his car.

In the Hamilton District Court yesterday, a patched member of the Highway 61 told a depositions hearing how he had travelled by motorcycle to then-Auckland Chapter president Howard's home in Kopu on the afternoon of Mr Povey's death.

He described how Mr Povey arrived in his black Ford LTD at the large gate protecting the house, which was also monitored by a closed-circuit television, and demanded to see Howard - known either as Dave or Boots.

Howard was not there, but arrived in a red car soon afterwards and became involved in a struggle with Mr Povey on the grass verge beside the road.

Mr Povey pushed him to the ground.

The witness said he then saw Tohaia, who was the Highway 61's "Sergeant," or second-in-charge, with Claude, who was another patched member, and a prospect from Papatoetoe all get out of the car.

He let Howard in through the gate while the other men continued to fight out on the road, joined by Burkitt, another prospect who lived with Howard and had arrived separately.

He later looked out to see Tohaia and Claude smashing Mr Povey's car to pieces with a mallet and a piece of wood, but did not see Mr Povey or Burkitt.

He next saw Mr Povey lying on the opposite side of the road in his sandshoes, shorts and a bloodstained T-shirt, and being assisted by members of the public.

The witness left Kopu with the prospect from Papatoetoe after being told to leave his bike behind and drive the red car up to Auckland.

He said the men at Kopu that day met again at the new Highway 61 Auckland Chapter president's Maraetai house in January and went to the beach to discuss the case.

Howard told them "their mate" had decided to surrender to police and they were to support him. They were told to tell police that Mr Povey had died in a fight with Burkitt, and Burkitt would say it was self-defence.

The man's name, occupation and address were suppressed by the court because he is in a witness protection scheme. He gave his evidence accompanied by a plainclothes detective.

The sixth man who was at Kopu with the men, the Papatoetoe club prospect, will also give evidence for the Crown and has been granted immunity by the Solicitor-General on charges of conspiring to defeat the course of justice.

He was stood down to seek advice from legal counsel after he did not cooperate with crown prosecutor Ross Douch while on the witness stand yesterday.

Mr Douch and Louella Dunn appear for the Crown.

Denise Clarke appears for Howard, Tom Ingram for Claude, Phillip Morgan and Warren Pyke for Burkitt, and Paul Mabey, QC, and Mike Curtis for Tohaia.

The four defendants are on bail. The depositions hearing will continue today.

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