A Mongrel Mob gang member is alleged to have helped destroy a vehicle involved in the killing of a fellow gang member who was on his way to a wedding reception.

The gang stoush saw Tribesman Don Henry Turei Jnr, 38, killed after he was knocked off his Harley Davidson motorbike outside Raukokere Marae, on State Highway 35, in the eastern Bay of Plenty on November 26, 2016.

Henare Raukokore Swinton, 34, is today on trial charged with suppressing evidence – setting fire to a vehicle - to help his gang associate Andre Robert Taiapa avoid a manslaughter conviction.

Taiapa has already been jailed for his part in Turei Jnr's death. Jared Renata Te Moana, 34, has also admitted his part in helping Taiapa avoid a manslaughter conviction.

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Crown prosecutor Anna Pollett told the High Court at Hamilton, there was a large presence of gang members in the Opotiki area for three major events; the tangi of young woman Marie Harlick, an unveiling of a previous Mongrel Mob president, and a wedding at the Raukokere Church.

Hundreds of gang members from around New Zealand and abroad were in the area on the day.

Pollett said a number of Mongrel Mob members travelled the short distance from their gang pad to the church and intimidated attendees by driving around recklessly, barking and swearing.

To get to the church, mourners had to drive past the Mongrel Mob headquarters. A group of 12 Tribesmen members managed to successfully drive past without incident despite Mongrel Mob members throwing items and swearing at them.

The Tribesmen members then decided to take off their patches for the remainder of the day due to the area being "Mongrel Mob territory".

Oblivious to the new agreement to remove patches, Turei Jnr and his brother drove past the gang pad 90 minutes later, about 2.30pm, when many gang members were out on the road.

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ROTORUA DAILY POST
4 Sep, 2018 5:26pm
4 minutes to read
Andre Robert Taiapa was jailed for six years and four months for the manslaughter of Don Henry Turei Jnr in November 2016. Photo / File
Andre Robert Taiapa was jailed for six years and four months for the manslaughter of Don Henry Turei Jnr in November 2016. Photo / File

After driving through, Turei Jnr and his brother were then followed by a group of Mongrel Mob members in a Honda Odyssey vehicle being driven by Taiapa.

After catching up to Turei Jnr, Taiapa drove his car into the back of his motorbike, with his rear wheel becoming stuck in the front of the car.

It eventually came loose, and Turei Jnr attempted to flee but Taiapa caught up and smashed the car into the back of the bike, forcing it off the road and into a ditch.

Taiapa drove off as mourners at the marae ran to help. He then did a U-turn and drove past yelling obscenities and boasting about killing Turei Jnr.

Swinton allegedly became involved later in the evening when it was decided to get rid of the Honda Odyssey.

Pollett submitted that Swinton, the president of the Aotearoa Mongrel Mob chapter based in Rotorua, drove his Nissan Terrano to an isolated spot off SH35, being followed by the Odyssey, which was then set fire to and destroyed.

Pollett told the jury the Honda was an "important piece of evidence, you will appreciate, to the killing of Don Turei that afternoon".

"When the vehicle was found by police some days later it was completely destroyed by fire. It was unable to be forensically examined other than to identify the type of vehicle it was."

Helping destroy the vehicle was why Swinton was subsequently charged with being a accessory after the fact in helping a person avoid arrest by tampering with evidence.

In his brief opening statement, defence counsel Jonathan Temm told the jury to focus on events that happened after 10pm on that night, which he said was when the crown alleged he got involved.

He said the case was about the "culpable conduct" of his client on the night and what he was alleged to have done.

Swinton's partner Amanda Slater also took [the stand and denied making a statement to police about six months after the incident, saying she was "out the gate".

She told officers at the time Swinton told her he helped get rid of the Odyssey.

"I don't really remember if I was high, two days high ... but all that period of time was when I was at home, I didn't have my kids and I was just out the gate."

The trial, being overseen by Justice Pheroze Jagose, is expected to last at least a week.