'Death threat led to stabbing'

An 18-year-old has told a jury he stabbed a man in front of his ex-girlfriend's house because he feared for his life.

Te Rehia Smaling gave evidence yesterday in the Palmerston North District Court where he has pleaded not guilty to a charge of wounding with reckless intent.

Smaling stabbed 21-year-old Judah Stevens outside the Alexander St house of his ex-girlfriend, Tia Tawharu, on the night of June 22, last year.

After a confrontation with Mr Stevens earlier in the night in which Smaling said he used a pair of hedge clippers to keep Mr Stevens away from him, Smaling was returning to Miss Tawharu's house when he saw a car slow down.

Mr Stevens jumped out and started chasing him, Smaling said.

The car overtook him and crossed the kerb to cut him off, he said, and another male got out of the car.

Smaling said he hit the car and fell down. After regaining his feet he managed to dodge Mr Stevens who, along with the other man, continued to chase him. "I ran towards him and managed to dodge him as if we were playing rugby," Smaling said.

"I was frightened."

Smaling said Mr Stevens yelled twice that he was going to die "on that spot" as he was chasing him.

He said he slipped outside Miss Tawharu's house and as he rose to his feet one of his pursuers, he thought it was probably Mr Stevens, was about 1.5 metres to 2m away.

Smaling said he lunged with his knife because he thought it was his only option. "I thought [about] what they're going to do with me if I didn't defend myself. I thought they were going to kill me and if not that, waste me, kick my head in while I'm on the ground."

Smaling said he ran inside Miss Tawharu's house and went to the corner of her bedroom with her in front of him because he knew his pursuers would not risk hurting a woman. After they left so Mr Stevens could seek hospital treatment, Smaling said he feared they would send gang associates to the address, so he ran to a house on a nearby street. From there he rang police to tell them where he was.

Smaling said he had armed himself with a knife after the first confrontation because he knew Mr Stevens had a reputation for carrying knives. "[I took the knife] so if something did happen, I could wave it around and keep him away from me if he bumped into me. I could wave it around like I did with the secateurs earlier."

On Wednesday, the court heard there had been tension between Smaling and Mr Stevens as they were both involved with Miss Tawharu and were associated with rival gangs.

Under cross-examination, Smaling denied having any involvement with the Mongrel Mob, including wearing their colours or using their slogans. He said his relationship with Miss Tawharu had ended a few months before the incident.

The trial continues tomorrow with Smaling still in the witness box.

Manawatu Standard