Accused had no funds before assault

Last updated 05:00 06/12/2012
Phillip Cottrell murder accused

ACCUSED: Nicho Allan Waipuka, left, and Manuel Renera Robinson are on trial in the Wellington High Court for murdering journalist Phillip Cottrell.

Phillip Cottrell
MURDERED: Phillip Cottrell, the Radio NZ journalist who died after being beaten in Wellington's Boulcott St.

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Murder accused Nicho Waipuka did not have enough money in his bank account to withdraw even $20 about half an hour before journalist Phillip Cottrell was assaulted and his wallet taken.

Four hours later, three attempts were made - by a man the Crown says was Waipuka - to withdraw $600 from Mr Cottrell's bank account at a cash machine at Wellington Railway Station. The wrong Pin was used and no money was received.

Waipuka, 20, and Manuel Renera Robinson, 18, have pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Cottrell on December 10, last year.

However, at their trial in the High Court at Wellington yesterday, a formal admission was made for Waipuka that he delivered "a punch" to Mr Cottrell's jaw in a "wholly unprovoked attack".

The jury also heard that Waipuka told a friend "the journalist" would not give him a cigarette so he punched him twice and the man fell to the ground.

Bank records showed that about half an hour earlier, at 5.05am, three attempts were made to withdraw money from Waipuka's account at a cash machine in Lambton Quay. First $100, then $60, and finally $20 was entered, but each request was declined due to insufficient funds.

Mr Cottrell worked a night shift at Radio New Zealand on The Terrace, and left the building about 5.30am. A taxi driver found him soon after, unconscious and bleeding in Boulcott St.

The jury has heard that Mr Cottrell had a brittle bones condition. His skull was shattered into more than 20 pieces, he had multiple neck fractures and one arm was fractured in two places. He died in hospital the following day.

A friend of Waipuka, Christopher Field, 18, said he was drinking with Waipuka on the Hutt River bank on December 13. At first Mr Field said Waipuka told him he had a fight with the journalist.

After being referred to a statement he made to police about the conversation, he agreed Waipuka said he punched the journalist twice because he did not give him a "smoke". He agreed Waipuka said: "I murdered that journalist in town."

However, in cross-examination, he agreed Waipuka had said: "Bro, I'm wanted for murdering that journalist . . . in town."

While they were on the riverbank, Waipuka was told by phone that Robinson had been arrested.

Police youth aid officer Megan Gouverneur had seen security camera images of the suspects for the assault on Mr Cottrell and recognised Robinson.

When Robinson's home was searched, a card with Mr Cottrell's contact details was found under a red stetson hat in a shed.

Detective Sergeant Martin Todd said Robinson later told him that "Nicho had gone too far".

However, Justice Forrie Miller told the jury that, for legal reasons, that comment was not evidence against Waipuka. Mr Todd said during the same conversation Robinson had discussed his club foot and his loose teeth.

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- The Dominion Post

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