A longtime patched Mongrel Mob member is accused of smashing a fellow gang member over the head with a hammer and strangling him with a towel over money before driving him to his friend's house and dumping his body in the driveway.

That is the basis of the Crown case against Raymond Iveagh Jury, 58, whose trial began yesterday in the High Court at Rotorua.

Jury has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murdering Rotorua man Trevor Rikihana at his Ōwhata home last year.

The Crown's case, which opened before a jury and Justice Paul Davison, will include evidence of longtime Mongrel Mob member Rex Maney, who died from cancer last year but wrote a letter detailing what happened on the night of the alleged murder.

Advertisement

Before the Crown opened its case, Jury was asked to enter a plea, to which he responded: "I murdered nobody."

It will be his defence that it wasn't him who inflicted the injuries, his lawyer told the jury.

Rikihana, 69, who along with Jury was a member of the Rogue chapter of the Mongrel Mob, died in the early hours of the morning on January 30, 2019.

He was taken to Rotorua Hospital by his friend unresponsive and staff were unable to revive him.

Crown prosecutor Matthew Jenkins opened the case describing how Rikihana suffered "numerous and significant" injuries, including blunt force trauma to the head, a fractured nose and jaw and "crushing" injuries to the neck.

He had binding marks on his wrists, consistent with being tied up and a serious brain injury, Jenkins told the jury.

On the night of January 29, Jury drove to Rikihana's Te Ngae Rd house with his bulldog about 11pm for a brief 10-minute encounter.

He returned shortly after midnight and was taken to Rikihana's sleepout by the victim's niece Lauren Eketone to talk to him.

Advertisement

An argument started over money and the defendant attacked Rikihana, who was unable to fight back and became "overwhelmed", Jenkins said. Rikihana was described as being 167cm tall (5ft 5in) and weighing 49kg.

Jenkins said a hammer was found near the sleepout as well as a blood-stained towel and it was the Crown's case that Jury hit Rikihana over the head with the hammer and strangled him with the towel.

Raymond Jury in the High Court at Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser
Raymond Jury in the High Court at Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser

Jenkins said Jury then put Rikihana in the back of his car and drove to the nearby home of Rex Maney to ask for some rope to tie him up.

He continued to beat him while he was "bound" in the back of the car.

He was "fatally injured if not already dead" at this point, Jenkins said.

About 2.40am, Jury dropped Rikihana on to the driveway of another longtime Mongrel Mob member, who was Rikihana's friend, before driving away.

Advertisement

Rikihana's face was "covered with blood" and he was "unresponsive", Jenkins said.

He was taken to the hospital by the friend before being declared dead about 3.35am.

Jury had driven back to Rikihana's home after dumping his body to look for Eketone. However, she had packed her bags and fled the property across neighbouring farmland with her young son.

Jenkins said the actions of the defendant following the death included "fleeing the area" and "getting rid of evidence".

He said that, while Rikihana was being declared dead at Rotorua Hospital, Jury was driving to Napier.

About 7am Jury went to Napier Hospital saying he had been hit on the head with a hammer in Rotorua.

Advertisement

The next morning, the Ford Fairmont car he had been driving was found completely burnt out on a rural Napier road.

Jury's lawyer, Bill Nabney, said that, although Rikihana's injuries could not be argued, they needed to ask "who did it?"

He asked the jury to consider that Jury might not have been the only person in the car.

The Crown played a video of the victim's niece Lauren Eketone's police interview from January 30, where she described what she saw and heard that night.

Eketone said Rikihana and Jury had been "happy to see each other" that night after not seeing one another for a while, and they came inside for a chat with some tea and food.

Arguing began and she heard her uncle say, "I gave your money back", before the situation escalated and Eketone heard a "scuffle".

Advertisement

She said Jury began hitting Rikihana and he was "suffering". She and her young son "didn't move, didn't breathe".

Her uncle was "screaming for his life", she said.

They moved into the back garden and hid behind some tyres as she heard Jury searching the house looking for the two of them.

"He was out to kill us."

She heard the doors shut and the car sped off before going back inside with her son.

She packed her and her son's bags, cleaned the dishes left behind and began looking for her uncle.

Advertisement

Not long later, she heard the car speed back into her driveway.

She said at that point she knew her uncle was gone and "we were next on the list".

She and her son made a run for it, jumping neighbouring fences and going through farmland, before getting to her other uncle's home about 5am.

She asked to be dropped off at the airport so she and her son could catch the bus to Western Heights and not be seen on the road. She said she was scared.

The trial is set down for two weeks and is before a jury of four men and eight women.