A man accused of killing a cyclist during a police chase two years ago seemed to be acting bizarrely in the minutes and hours after he allegedly sped away from the West Auckland crash site, multiple police and civilian witnesses have said.
"He appeared to be in an extremely agitated state and under the influence of drugs and mental health issues," Detective Natalie Hicks testified Wednesday at the judge-alone trial of the 27-year-old, who has name suppression.
Another officer who arrested the defendant on the evening of November 25, 2019, less than 30 minutes after the crash, noted that he "stuck out" for wearing a scarf in the summer-like heat as he walked at a "brisk pace" alongside a Massey street. It's the same road where a stolen Subaru station wagon with a damaged windscreen would soon be found covered with a sheet, a large curtain and a Polynesian-style mat.
The defendant is charged with failing to stop for police, failing to stop or ascertain injury after cyclist Jamie Jameson was hit, receiving stolen property over $1000 and recklessly causing the 39-year-old father's death. Crown prosecutors have finished presenting evidence after three days of testimony in which the defendant — who is representing himself with the help of a legal adviser — declined to cross-examine all but one witness.
In addition to the constables who testified about the strange behaviour, prosecutors read aloud statements from two neighbours of the property where the damaged car was found. The married couple recalled standing up to look out their window as they heard a loud noise.
"It went in [the driveway] so fast I thought it may have hit the house," the husband explained of the station wagon. "I then noticed the windscreen was smashed.
"A male then got out of the driver's door, came around the back of the vehicle and grabbed some blankets from the rubbish pile and covered the rear of the car. The male then went in the house and came out soon after with more blankets, which he used to cover the front of the car."
The driver also grabbed a bag from the car, went inside and re-emerged minutes later wearing different clothes and sunglasses, he said.
The witness' wife told police she was suspicious enough that she tried to call police, but the line was busy. When she saw a police helicopter flying overhead, she waved her arms in an effort to direct it to the neighbour's house, she said.
Both witnesses gave a general description of the driver that broadly matched the defendant, but neither indicated to police that they would be able to identify him.
Forensic scientists, however, later outlined more concrete connections between the defendant and the car.
DNA samples from a cigarette butt found inside the car and from the vehicle's steering wheel were 600 billion times more likely to be from the defendant than anyone else in New Zealand, testified ESR scientist Timothy Power, who described his findings as "extremely strong scientific support" for a match.
In addition, 11 fingerprints taken from the car matched the defendant, police reported. And glass from the car's windscreen was determined to match shards on a T-shirt pulled from a backpack the defendant was wearing when he was arrested and from the lounge of the home where the car was parked, another ESR scientist testified.
The station wagon had been stolen from outside a Titirangi residence, roughly 30 kilometres away from where it was eventually found, earlier that month. The ignition barrel had been pried off, meaning the car could easily be started with a screwdriver, Detective Sebastian Stowers said. The vehicle had damage to the front-right panel above the wheel and there was blood and possibly flesh found on the car's "extensively damaged" windscreen, police noted.
Jameson, the cyclist who left behind a son and a wife, died from his head injuries on December 3, 2019, about a week after the crash.
The defendant has been given until Thursday morning to tell Judge Anna Skellern, who is overseeing the trial at the Auckland District Court, whether he intends to call witnesses or testify on his own behalf.