A recluse, an eccentric but a killer? That was the question hanging over Quinton Paul Winders through the five weeks during which he stood trial in the High Court at Rotorua.

The question was answered yesterday by the jury which found Winders guilty of murdering stop-go worker George Taiaroa.

Throughout the trial Winders had sat in the dock, flanked by guards who dwarfed his slight frame. A charcoal-blue suit, slate-grey tie tied in a thick knot at his neck and above it a thin face fixed on the wall above the judge.

• READ MORE: Stop-go verdict: 'The dead have no voice'


His parents, Max and Janet Winders, sat behind him along with brothers Chris and Marcus.

It wasn't Winders' usual environment. He was used to wilder places than a staid courtroom.

He was associated with four properties during the trial: the farm of his parents north of Rotorua, the rough farmland outside Benneydale where he worked as a fencer, the rugged hillsides of Pohokura and Stratford where his military-style Unimog truck is still parked.

Each place has surrendered clues to Winders' nature, as have neighbours, transfixed by the trial taking place in Rotorua.

"I didn't think he was that twisted," said one former neighbour.

Others were less sure.

Chris Robinson was Winders' landlord in Benneydale until around October 2011. "He was strange. He was the sort of fella that didn't have many friends. He didn't socialise well with people."

No sharp suits for Winders then - the boy who went to Auckland's prestigious King's College then Massey University wore old clothes and smelled.

In Benneydale, a small King Country farming town with a coal mine and meatworks, Winders worked as a fencer for a former roommate.

He had turned up looking for somewhere to live while he worked nearby and lived alone in the small cottage neighbouring Robinson's house. His time there included a long period without power after his employer stopped covering the bill.

"He was a good worker," said Robinson. "He worked hard and he worked every day and didn't worry about weekends. He just worked. When it rained, he'd go off to work. And he worked until it was pretty much dark."

Then he returned to his dark house where he waited for morning so he could work again. And when he eventually moved out of Robinson's house, he stayed, worked and slept in his 4WD, or in a tent on the property.

Those Winders spoke to recalled conversations, Winders frenetic in his efforts to explain world events through the lens of a conspiracy theorist. The Illuminati, secret controlling groups who influenced world events - grand schemes played out on a global scale.

An explanation of the evidence in the case against Quinton Winders.

Throughout this time, Winders owned a property on the Forgotten Highway between Taumarunui and Stratford at Pohokura. It's about 10 minutes drive from Whangamomona, east over a saddle from the famous self-appointed republic which once elected a goat called Bill Gumboot as its president.

Winders was known in the town - he'd told people he didn't want anyone talking about him around the time police started asking questions. His presence was felt even though he spent much of his time hidden in a large barn without windows, a building he was styling as a "hunting lodge".

Inside the lodge were signs that Winders sought to shut himself away from the world. The main barn area was separated from the living quarters by two doors - one a wooden door, the other a steel construction which could be bolted closed.

The land was filled with scrub and goats, which occasionally drew hunters. One of those, Nigel Ford, was on a property neighbouring Winders' in 2009 when he felt a high-powered rifle shot fly past.

He was out hunting with three boys aged between 13 and 15 and his five pig dogs. He had walked about 800m from his ute across clear land on a farm track at the bottom of a hill neighbouring Winders' property.

"Then this shot rang out," he told the Herald. "It just came whizzing past and you could see the bullet land on the ground."

The lead kicked up the dirt with force, signalling to Ford it was fired by a high-powered rifle.

Ford was stunned.

"You're only talking four or five seconds of sheer panic."

He shouted at the boys: "Shit, someone is shooting at us."

As soon as the words left his mouth, a second shot passed so close to his head that he felt the air shift.

"F****** run," he shouted, and they started sprinting - heading away from the ute towards a bend in the track about 30m away. Then the crack of another shot.

"I didn't see where that shot landed because we were busy running."

About 400m on, they stopped.

"We could physically run no further. It was hard to believe".

The four made a plan to circle away from Winders' property, returning to the ute from a different direction. Afterward, they went to Kenn Lobb's place and recounted the tale. Lobb owned the property on which they were hunting.

A few weeks later, Lobb was speaking to Winders on the phone when his neighbour started talking about scaring hunters off.

"I chased these poachers off the other day," Lobb recalls Winders saying. "They won't be back."

Lobb let him have an earful, explaining Ford was hunting with permission and had done so for years.

Ford is still stunned by what he calls the sheer recklessness of the shots, which he believes were fired by Winders. The shots came from a hilltop about 400m distant, more than 100m above where he was walking with the boys. The bullets were fired into a gully which would have acted as a wind tunnel, affecting the passage of a bullet.

Those who don't shoot probably wouldn't appreciate how unsure the shot was - bullets rise when fired downhill and any wind could knock a bullet off target from that distance in a totally unpredictable way.

To fire into an area where there were four people was "a hell of a gamble", says Ford. There was no way of the shooter knowing he would miss.

Neighbour Bryan Kuriger, who later bought Winders' land, also claimed in evidence he had been shot at in 2011.

Like Ford, Kuriger had not seen the gunman but both were convinced it was Winders. There was a period when he wouldn't go out working without his own rifle close at hand.

It was into this that Fairfax reporter Tony Wall walked in 2014. Winders told him he hadn't shot George Taiaroa and that he was the focus of a case fabricated by police.

"They put their cameras up. There's one over there, or there was but they've moved it."

Winders' conspiracy theories were not unknown in the Whangamomona area.

Get him talking and - like in Benneydale - he would describe a world controlled by mysterious and powerful groups which sought to control and influence the lives of others.

Locally, they were also familiar with Winders' wild stories and threats. One night in the local pub, he became agitated as he angrily described someone locally he didn't like.

Told to calm down or leave by the publican, he rounded on him, and apparently threatened violence.

Winders left for Stratford later that year, selling his land with its goats and scrub in favour of Stratford. Almost as soon as he arrived, he began to shut out the world with a high fence unlike anything seen in the Taranaki town's streets.

"Nobody knew he lived here," said one neighbour. "He lived here 6-8 months before the police came."