Mongrel Mob member Raymond Jury did not kill Rotorua man Trevor Rikihana but fellow gang member, Rex Maney, who died of cancer last year, did, Jury's defence says.
Jury, 58, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murdering Rikihana at Rikihana's Te Ngae Rd home last year.
The High Court trial began in Rotorua yesterday before a jury and Justice Paul Davison.
Rikihana, 69, who along with Jury, was a member of the Rogue chapter of the Mongrel Mob, died in the early hours of January 30, 2019.
The Crown's case is that Jury smashed Rikihana over the head with a hammer and strangled him with a towel over money before driving him to his friend's house and dumping his body in the driveway.
But the defence says although Jury was at the scene on the night of January 29, Maney was the one who hurt and killed Rikihana as a result of a "drug debt".
Crown witness Lauren Eketone, who is Rikihana's niece, took the stand today and recounted her memory of the night.
She said that she remembered hearing Jury arguing with her uncle before a "scuffle" began and she heard her uncle suffering before he was taken away.
Eketone recounted how she and her young son hid behind their chicken coop and under the neighbour's stairs before fleeing the scene.
However, in cross-examination, Jury's lawyer Bill Nabney, questioned Eketone saying the arguments and violence she heard the night her uncle died was actually her "good friend" and Mongrel Mob member Rex Maney.
Nabney said that she was in denial of this due to this relationship.
Eketone admitted that Rikihana used methamphetamine, but denied he got it from Maney.
The defence said Rikihana had owed Maney money as a result of this drug debt and this was what started the argument that ended in Rikihana's death.
Eketone lived next door to Maney's son, Damien, and the reason she did not go next door to ask for help the night of the murder or call the police was she knew it was Rex Maney who had hurt her uncle and she wanted to protect him, Nabney said.
The Crown's opening yesterday alleged that Jury had turned up at Rex Maney's home asking for rope to tie up Rikihana after beating him and putting him in his car the night Rikihana died.
A letter by Rex Maney detailing what happened on the night of the alleged murder was part of the Crown's evidence and would be presented in the coming days.
Eketone said Rex Maney had lived with her shortly after her uncle died and before he died too.
She had known him since she was 11.
The Crown today read police statements that Maney made on both February 8 and 18, 2019, before he died.
In the first statement, Maney spoke about how he had known Jury since the 1980s and that Jury had been at Maney's home on a number of occasions.
He went on to say he knew nothing about the death of Trevor Rikihana and he didn't want to know anything as they had known each other for a long time.
Following this statement, police executed a search warrant at Maney's property where a letter was recovered talking about the night of January 29.
In his second statement, Maney confirmed he had written the letter for his son with what he knew about the death of Rikihana.
He spoke about how Jury had turned up at his home saying that Rikihana had hit him on the face with a hammer due to something to do with a car.
Maney could not remember Jury bleeding or being particularly angry, but Jury had said he was going to get Rikihana, he said.
Later in the night, Jury turned back up at Maney's home asking for some rope and Maney told him there was some in the wash house.
Maney went back to bed and heard "yelling" which he said, "must have been Trevor".
He recalled hearing someone yelling "please no more". He then heard what sounded like "heaps of kickings".
Maney said Jury never spoke to him about what happened that night and he did not know what he did with the rope.
The trial continues.