A Tauranga man has been found guilty of brutally killing police dog Enzo - with chilling details of how the crime happened revealed in court.
Tairyn Murphy, a 27-year-old Welcome Bay labourer, was found guilty yesterday of killing the police dog without lawful excuse. He faces up to two years in prison. Judge Christopher Harding convicted Murphy in Tauranga District Court after evidence proved he'd drowned the dog by holding its head under the water in a small stream in the lower Kaimai Range in August.
Murphy was also convicted of resisting arrest.
Enzo's body was found submerged and wedged under a rock in a small stream in a river basin.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Barry Woon said Murphy had been hiding out at his partner's lower Kaimais home and fled into the bush after two police officers arrived to speak to him about outstanding warrants.
Mr Woon said Murphy had drowned Enzo when handler Constable Kayne Cording lost sight of his dog in dense bush after releasing him to capture the fugitive.
Murphy maintained he had punched Enzo in self defence.
But Hamilton-based veterinary pathologist Alan Julian gave evidence that his post-mortem examination revealed that Enzo had died a ``sudden death' from drowning.
Multiple haemorrhages were found under the surface of dog's skin and in some muscles due to the sudden lack of oxygen to the blood vessels and tissues. There was also minor bruising to the ribs, back of the neck and shoulder area consistent with the dog's head being held under the water.
Mr Cording testified that he and Enzo arrived on the scene about 11.40am and tracked Murphy for more than an hour over a distance of about 5km. Enzo was clearly becoming fatigued so he began considering his options.
A minute later Enzo signalled Murphy was nearby so he yelled out to him to give himself up and got no response.
After a further warning he released his dog to capture Murphy but soon lost sight of the animal.
Further searching proved fruitless so three other dog handler units were called in to help him, including Constable Logan Marsh.
Mr Marsh said he had teamed up with Constable Derek Orchard and another handler from Rotorua and was coming down the hill of the river basin when he spied Enzo's reflective harness underneath the water.
He soon realised Enzo's body was submerged also.
"His body was well wedged under a rock. He was lying on his side in about one metre-deep water."
Mr Marsh said it took some degree of force by him and Mr Orchard to free Enzo's body. They removed it from the water and alerted Mr Cording.
In a videotaped interview shown to the court, Murphy said he became "spooked" when Enzo tried to bite his ankle so he pushed the dog's head down on to the ground.
He screamed out "help me, help me" several times and "freaked out" when he realised no one was coming to his aid.
"I thought the dog would be chewing on my throat next so I punched it in the throat twice."
Murphy said the first punch failed to get any reaction from the dog but the second was an "upper cut" and the dog's eyes rolled back in its head and it fell back on to the ground dazed. He ran off towards the creek where he hid for more than an hour.
"He just grabbed me and bam, I punched him in the throat and he just let go after that."
Murphy maintained it was self-defence and denied drowning the dog. He claimed he was intending to surrender when he was spotted walking through a paddock and was grabbed by Mr Harris and "smashed over" by him and other officers who turned up. Those claims were refuted by Mr Harris and other police officers.
Mr Cording said there was no way that Murphy screamed for help as he would have heard him.
Detective Lindsay Pilbrow said there was no evidence of any blood, clothing or significant damage in the area where Enzo's body was found to suggest any type of struggle had taken place at the stream's edge.
Murphy chose not to take the stand in his own defence, nor were any defence witnesses called by his lawyer.
Nicholas Dutch told Judge Harding there was no evidence that Murphy had intended to kill the police dog. When he punched Enzo it was to prevent getting bitten by an unaccompanied police dog, which offers him a lawful excuse as he acted "under duress".
Judge Harding disagreed.
Murphy's explanation for what occurred that day just was not creditable, the judge said.
"I find in all the circumstances that through the process of deductive reasoning the only inference that can be drawn from all the evidence is the one the police have postulated, that is, in the course of grappling with the dog you Mr Murphy did indeed drown it in the river."
Murphy was remanded in custody for a pre-sentence report and sentencing on January 15.