Shoes could have caused Cottrell's injuries

Last updated 15:52 07/12/2012
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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The uneven concrete that journalist Phillip Cottrell was found on in central Wellington after he was assaulted would have been unlikely to have caused his fatal head injury, a neurosurgeon says.

In the High Court at Wellington today Martin Hunn said from photographs of the scene he did not see anything on the edge of the concrete in Boulcott St that could have caused the curved break in the skin over Mr Cottrell's shattered skull.

Mr Cottrell, 43, had a condition that causes brittle bones but Mr Hunn said the piece of skull that was cut out of Mr Cottrell during surgery seemed the same as for a normal healthy adult.

Mr Cottrell died after being assaulted walking home from a night shift at Radio New Zealand almost a year ago.

Mr Hunn said emergency surgery was done to try to rescue the situation even though there were already signs that Mr Cottrell had only an extremely small chance of survival.

Mr Hunn was giving evidence at the trial of  Nicho Allan Waipuka, 20, and Manuel Renera Robinson, 18, who have pleaded not guilty of murdering Mr Cottrell.

Mr Hunn said on the front and left of Mr Cottrell's head there were multiple small fractures and several fractures radiating outwards.

Although a small improvement was seen at first Mr Cottrell's brain started to swell alarmingly and there was "torrential" bleeding.

He died the following day.

Mr Hunn said Mr Cottrell's injuries reminded him of two cases where the cause of the injury had been known. One was caused by a vase and the other a hammer, both driven with great force.

In court he was shown two pairs of shoes and asked if a shoe could be consistent with causing that type of injury. Mr Hunn said the curved edges of the toe and heel of one pair with a relatively hard sole could have caused it if used with sufficient force.

The other pair of shoes had a softer sole and he was less certain about the toe of those shoes but the heel could have caused the injury, he said.

Mr Hunn said the pattern of fractures to Mr Cottrell's skull was more extensive than  he usually saw, so his underlying brittle bones condition played a part in the extent to which the skull fractured.

Even so significant force would have caused the degree of fracturing, Mr Hunn said.

Mr Cottrell's bone condition may have predisposed his brain to bleed more.

The trial continues on Monday, the first anniversary of the assault on Mr Cottrell.

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