Accused 'ran off' at sign of violence

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

A teenager accused of murder watched Nicho Waipuka punch journalist Phillip Cottrell once in the face with a closed fist, a jury has heard.

"He's smacked him. All I seen was the guy fall down and I turned and ran," Manuel Renera Robinson told a police officer.

In the High Court at Wellington today a jury has heard the interview Robinson had with police that was recorded on December 13 last year.

Then 17 and illiterate, Robinson talked to police without speaking to a lawyer.

"I just want to tell the truth and get it over and done with." Robinson told police officer Jana Peterson.

During the interview Robinson said he watched Waipuka punch Mr Cottrell in the face with his right hand. 

"I seen him go down and that's when he probably grabbed the wallet. 

"He might have ended up kicking him or something. I just wasn't paying attention to it."

When Waipuka approached him after the incident on Boulcott St: "I knew he had taken something. You could see it on his face."I said, 'did you take something gee?'" Waipuka then showed him the light brown wallet.

"I said: 'you're dumb, bro'," Robinson said.

The pair then walked down the Terrace where Waipuka told him there were only cards in the wallet. They then fell asleep in an alleyway before continuing on to the Wellington train station. Robinson said Waipuka tried to use a card from the wallet in an ATM there while he used a toilet. They then caught a train towards Upper Hutt. Robinson said Waipuka got off at Petone while he got off at Naenae and went home. 

Robinson told Mr Petersen he was prepared to confront Waipuka about the incident wearing a wire. His offer was declined. "I was not involved bro. You can ask Nicho and he'll tell you straight up I was not involved.

"He's like an older brother to me. This was the first time in ages I'd seen him and got on the piss with him and this is what he ends up doing."

Robinson and Waipuka, now 20, have pleaded not guilty of murdering Mr Cottrell, 43. He died from severe head injuries on December 11 last year, the day after he was attacked in Boulcott St, central Wellington, as he walked home from a night shift at 5.30am.

An attempt to use one of his bank cards a few hours later led police to suspect Waipuka and Robinson, who were captured on security camera footage at Wellington Railway Station, where the card was used.

A police officer recognised Robinson three days later, still wearing some of the same clothes, when he went to Wellington Youth Court to support a cousin who was appearing that day.

By that time Mr Cottrell's death had been reported and Robinson said he knew why police wanted to talk to him.

"It was Nicho did it," he said.

Waipuka had been talking about "smacking someone over just for the fun of it," he said.

"I seen this guy coming down and I crossed the road because I knew what he wanted to do."

Robinson's defence is that he was not involved in the attack and had been on the other side of the road.

Attempts have been made to calculate how long it would have taken for Mr Cottrell to walk, and the accused to run, between where Mr Cottrell fell and a security camera just over 30 metres away.

Earlier in the day the jury heard from Sergeant Peter Sowter who said he had no idea of Mr Cottrell's pace out of view of the camera so an assumption had to be made about that and the line he took.

A defence witness says based on similar calculations it was not possible for Robinson to have been on the spot when Mr Cottrell was hit.

If Mr Cottrell had increased his speed and Robinson and Waipuka, were running faster before they reached the camera's field of view it would increase the time each could have been at the place where Mr Cottrell was found.But Mr Sowter said all the calculations were based on assumptions of the routes the three people took and how fast they were moving out of view of the security camera.

The calculations illustrated the potential scenarios if the assumptions were changed, Mr Sowter said.

The trial of Robinson and Waipuka is in its second week and is due to finish early next week.


The Dominion Post