Accused 'protecting drug stash'

BY DAVID GADD
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2010
UNMASKED: Neshanderan Rajgopaul went by the nickname Africa and is said to have  always been armed
UNMASKED: Neshanderan Rajgopaul went by the nickname Africa and is said to have always been armed "like a gangster".

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The man accused of gunning down a police constable was attempting to protect a stash of methamphetamine, an illegal cache of guns and a stolen car, a court has been told.

The motive was revealed during a hearing in the High Court at Auckland yesterday to decide an appeal on suppression orders.

Justice Rhys Harrison ended name suppression for Neshanderan Rajgopaul, charged with shooting Jeremy Snow, 28, on December 22.

The court was told Rajgopaul, 28, went by the nickname Africa and walked around always armed "like a gangster".

The judge also lifted suppression orders related to three more charges Rajgopaul faces allegedly showing a pattern of pulling guns on people in altercations.

Mr Snow was hit four times, once in each leg, once in the left arm and once in the chest after he and partner Robert Cato stopped to check a car with hazard lights flashing in a Papatoetoe driveway.

Doctors said had Mr Snow not been rescued so quickly he probably would have bled to death.

The Crown alleges Rajgopaul had 45 grams of methamphetamine intended for supply, stashed in a sleepout at the property.

Guns were also found in a stolen Audi parked in the driveway and in the house. They included the .38 Eastern European-manufactured pistol that was used to shoot Mr Snow, a 10-gauge shotgun, a cut-down .22 rifle and another handgun.

Crown solicitor Rachael Reed told the court: "His [Rajgopaul's] motive for coming out armed was to protect the guns, the Audi and the meth."

Rajgopaul is also alleged to have fired at Gavin Lomas, who rented the sleepout on the property.

After the shooting, Rajgopaul was found three blocks away by a police dog. He faces an attempted murder charge, two of unlawful possession of firearms, discharging a firearm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm against Mr Lomas and possession of methamphetamine for supply, stemming from the December 22 event.

Defence lawyer Shane Tait said Rajgopaul admitted he was at the property but denied pulling the trigger.

Justice Harrison said that made identification the "primary issue" of the upcoming trial.

The judge said three men were at the Buckingham Cres property – Rajgopaul, Mr Lomas and Darren Court.

Both Mr Court and Mr Lomas would give evidence saying Rajgopaul shot Mr Snow, Mr Harrison said.

Mr Tait wanted to keep details of three further charges under wraps. He said they were unrelated and would be prejudicial to his client's trial.

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Between September 9 last year and December 22, Rajgopaul is accused of having pulled a gun on three people at different times. He is charged with assaulting Kenneth Caine, Phillip Andrew Kingi and Amanda Riley, using a firearm as a weapon.

All three knew the man who assaulted them as "Africa" – a nickname given because he was an Indian from South Africa.

"All three will identify Africa as Mr Rajgopaul," Mr Harrison said.

He quoted from a brief of evidence by Ms Riley who said of Rajgopaul: "He was in the habit of walking around like a gangster and always had guns on him."

The Crown argued the charges showed Rajgopaul had a "propensity" to use guns and indicated his state of mind on the morning Mr Snow was shot.

Judge Harrison said the earlier allegations would be a key for the Crown in proving identification.

"The common thread is Rajgopaul's alleged use of a firearm to intimidate or assault associates," Mr Harrison said.

- The Dominion Post

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