The Crown says there can be no doubt that Hendrix John Kahia fatally stabbed Wiremu Birch at Taupō on October 11, 2013.

Kahia's defence team says there's every doubt about it, rather it was a Crown witness who pulled a knife on the grossly intoxicated 19-year-old during a street confrontation.

The two argued their contrary cases in the High Court at Rotorua yesterday where Kahia is on trial for murdering Birch, 35, during a clash between Black Power associates and the dead man who affiliated to the Mongrel Mob.

Kahia pleaded not guilty when the trial began on February 11.

Advertisement

Crown prosecutor Chris Macklin opened his address with the query "Who killed Wiremu Birch?" saying there were six present, including Birch and his female companion who could be ruled out of the stabbing.

The man the defence were attempting to shift the blame to had testified he hadn't strayed from the car he and his three companions were in when they saw Birch on Taupō's Hinekura Ave and he had no opportunity to be the stabber.

His evidence was that he had been on the same side of the car as the "dynamic, moving event" during which he witnessed someone making a stabbing motion but couldn't pinpoint who that was.

Macklin reminded the jury the woman with Birch told of seeing someone moving in and out of the melee but couldn't identify that person either, nor was she able to identify the man who "clotheslined" her during it, knocking her to the ground.

It was up to the jurors what they made of witnesses who told them they were unable to remember various events and he urged them to look at that in context and weigh up whether they had become confused.

The prosecutor noted Kahia had been found two days later in a motel booked under a different name.

"The community is relying on you to assess everything before you reach your verdict ... this is not a debate, the Crown trusts you to work out whether you can be sure who stabbed Wiremu Birch ... the Crown says it is clear he was stabbed by Hendrix Kahia. This case will always come back to that."

Kahia's counsel, Elizabeth Hall, opened the defence with the accusation the Crown's star witness had told lie after lie.

Advertisement

"You are not here to solve the murder, you are here to decide whether the Crown has proved beyond reasonable doubt Kahia stabbed Birch to death ... you can't afford to convict the wrong man."

She reminded the jury the Crown witness the defence claimed killed Birch had smoked methamphetamine the night of the killing but had chosen to lie about that under oath, later telling her when she probed him that he had forgotten he had done so.

A pipe with his DNA on it was found in his car. He had had a sexual relationship with Birch's partner, was amped and pumped at the fight scene and as he drove away said, "Yo, I got him and nobody needs to know".

"He told so many lies the defence questions whether he knows what the actual truth is. Yet this is a man the Crown says you can be sure is not the person who committed this murder."

She pointed out this man's story had been he had never got out of the car yet every other witness said he had.

The woman with Birch gave a description of the stabber's height and clothing that matched the real killer's physical appearance and what he had been wearing. This was a black hoodie with distinctive lime tassels. Kahia had on a patched gang hoodie with bandanas around his wrists.

One point the Crown and defence agreed on was that there wasn't any forensic evidence to link Kahia to Birch's death. When the car drove off it had been the Crown witness who had yelled out gang taunts: "He was the aggressor in the car".

It was that man who had also attempted to get rid of the car after Birch's death. She disputed Kahia was fleeing or hiding when he checked into a motel, instead he was seeking accommodation because his tenancy had run out.

"Kahia did not stab Wiremu Birch and I ask the 12 of you to find him not guilty of murder," Hall urged.

Justice Edwin Wylie will sum up the trial tomorrow before the jury retires to consider its verdict.