Man wielded claw hammer during row

By staff reporter

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Witnesses intervene during repeated attack on partner

A Masterton forestry worker has been found guilty of assaulting his partner and trying to hit her with a claw hammer.

Ashley Taylor, 25, was convicted of assaulting with intent to injure and assault using a weapon after a defended hearing in the Masterton District Court on Wednesday and was bailed until November 27, when he will be sentenced in the Wellington District Court.

Taylor, represented by Jock Blathwayt, had pleaded not guilty to both charges relating to assaults on his then partner, Kristie Ann Riddell, in Masterton late last year.

Two witnesses, Ms Riddell's sister Arna Love and Alex Hodgson, were flown from Queensland to give evidence on behalf of the complainant.

The pair, who are partners, had come to New Zealand the day before the assaults in November and had been staying at Taylor and Ms Riddell's home.

They were visiting because a relative of the two women was ill.

The two sisters had gone out for a meal with Taylor and Mr Hodgson at a Masterton pub on November 23, then to the home of a cousin of the two women.

While there, Ms Riddell had left to take her son back to his father's house and the remaining three went back to Taylor and Ms Riddell's Lansdowne house.

When Ms Riddell arrived back she found the door locked and was let in by her sister.

In evidence, she said Taylor was angry at her for being late back. He had taken her cellphone and scrolled through messages while accusing her of being unfaithful.

An argument started between the two, with evidence given of Ms Riddell being forcefully ejected from the upstairs bedroom and flung across a passageway, hitting the wall.

Ms Love testified to going to her sister's aid and bringing her downstairs to the bedroom, where she and Mr Hodgson were sleeping.

Taylor followed, pushing his way into the room.

Judge Denys Barry, in summing up, accepted that it was in that room that Taylor set upon Ms Riddell, repeatedly punching her, kneeing her and attempting to strangle her, at some stage lifting her off the ground by the throat.

Taylor had left the room and returned with the all-metal claw hammer which, according to prosecution witnesses, he raised to at least shoulder height and was about to bring down on Ms Riddell when her sister and partner grappled with him and took the weapon away from his grasp.

They ran out of the house with it, tossing the hammer over a neighbour's fence, and summoned police help, while Ms Riddell and Taylor continued to push and shove each other in an alleyway.

Ms Riddell claimed she had been left with two black eyes and numerous other injuries to her body.

A doctor who examined her found swelling and bruising to her head, redness under the eyes and cheekbones, stipple bruises on her left arm and tenderness to her neck.

Aspects of what occurred in the house were disputed by Taylor, through Mr Blathwayt, who claimed Ms Riddell had been the aggressor and that Taylor had acted in self-defence.

Judge Barry said what had happened in the downstairs bedroom "crystallised" the case.

Ms Riddell had suffered injuries that were not merely "trifling or transitory" and Taylor's actions had demonstrated an intent to injure her.

He said the claw hammer could "indisputably" be classed as a weapon and he rejected the claim of self-defence, convicting Taylor on both charges.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Garry Wilson said the prosecution would be seeking hefty expenses from Taylor, including the cost of air travel for the two prosecution witnesses and their accommodation costs.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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