A former All Black star has been called in by suspended police Assistant Commissioner Clint Rickards to back his defence that he was incapacitated by a sore knee for some of the time during which he is accused of violating a 16-year-old girl.
Steve McDowell yesterday told the High Court at Auckland he could remember his friend Rickards needing crutches or support to get around early in 1984, which is during the period the sex-case complainant says the incident took place.
Rickards had earlier given evidence in his own defence, saying he had a full-length plaster cast from the top of his right thigh to the bottom of his ankle and then was on crutches from late 1983 to mid-January 1984 and was limping after that.
Mr McDowell, who played 46 tests for New Zealand, said he and Rickards had been friends since they were 5 and in a Rotorua judo club.
He told the jury he visited Rickards up to five times a week during his recovery from knee reconstruction surgery in October 1983.
He said Rickards "was a pretty big fella in those days" and needed support to get around until into the new year.
He could remember Rickards wearing a hinged brace after the plaster cast was removed in late December 1983.
It was some time before Rickards could walk freely.
Rickards, 46, Brad Shipton, 49, and Bob Schollum, 54, deny charges of kidnapping the woman and indecently assaulting her with a bottle in Rotorua sometime between November 1983 and August 1984 when she was 16 - although her evidence was that it was more likely to have happened in the summer months.
The woman said she was handcuffed to a bed with Shipton straddling her and Rickards and Schollum standing on either side while an indecency was performed with a whisky bottle from which they had been drinking.
In her evidence earlier in the trial she said she did not remember Rickards with a cast or limping.
The woman also said Shipton, with whom she had been having a consensual sexual relationship, was clean-shaven.
Yesterday his lawyer showed the jury a photograph taken close to the time and showing Shipton with a moustache.
Rickards began his evidence by telling the jury he was the assistant commissioner of police responsible for Auckland and in charge of more than 2500 staff.
He then acknowledged that he was suspended from duty.
He told his lawyer, John Haigh, QC, he had never met the woman making the allegations.
In cross-examination, prosecutor Brent Stanaway accused Rickards of being an accomplished liar after spending two years as an undercover officer and a "very practised witness" after up to 100 court appearances to prosecute others.
Mr Stanaway: "Day in day out, you had to live a lie, didn't you?"
Rickards: "Yes, I did"
Mr Stanaway: "You had to be a very practised liar, didn't you?"
Rickards: "To the criminal fraternity, yes."
Mr Stanaway asked if Rickards accepted the possibility the incident did happen, but the woman was mistaken about his involvement.
Mr Stanaway: "If the event occurred, your case is that you weren't there?"
Rickards: "That's correct."
Stanaway: "You agree that it was a vile event?
Rickards: "If true, yes."
Mr Stanaway also said Rickards had been adding elaborations and changing his story since earlier statements.
This included Rickards' evidence yesterday that he did not frequent a cafe where the woman said she saw him, because his mother was a cook at the hospital so he got good food from her, and because he was tired of takeaways after eating them a lot while spending time undercover.
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Barry Tietjens also appeared for Rickards, saying he signed medical records declaring Rickards fit for selective work on December 21, 1983, but not for full duties until February 1984.
He could not recall the hinged brace, but said the surgery he did on Rickards required taking "the knee apart".
Mr McDowell, who was a World Cup-winning prop for the All Blacks in 1987, said he had seen a lot of knee injuries, and recalled Rickards' cruciate ligament damage as particularly severe.
"Most guys don't come back from that, particularly in those days."
Mr McDowell, now a residential property developer, was chosen to represent New Zealand in judo at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, but did not go because of New Zealand's boycott over the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
Rickards was a judo competitor at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.
Shipton's wife, Sharon, gave evidence in his defence, telling the court her husband had a moustache for more than 10 years from late 1982 or early 1983.
Mrs Shipton said he had never removed it before and the woman's claims that he was clean-shaven were "absolutely not correct - my husband had a moustache for more than a decade".
She will continue giving evidence when the trial resumes on Monday.