A Hamilton man described how panic and confusion overcame the hunting party he was with moments after a gunshot killed Wellington teacher Rose Ives while she brushed her teeth at a Conservation Department campground near Turangi.
Brad Bennett was in the front seat of a ute driven by Ashley Wolland when their mate Andrew Mears shot Ms Ives in the darkness on Labour Weekend 2010.
The trio, who had hunting permits, were illegally spotlighting for deer at the Urchin campground. Another friend, Kyle Dean, who did not have a permit, was sitting in the back of the ute with Mears.
They were aware spotlighting was illegal on Conservation Department land.
Police statements from the four men were handed to the inquest into the death of Ms Ives, 25, held at Rotorua Coroner's Court yesterday.
Mears, 25, told police he heard someone in the ute yell: "There's one."
Mears said he had looked up and saw what he thought were the eyes of a deer in the bush.
He loaded the chamber and found one of the eyes in his sights. In one movement he aimed through his telescopic sight and fired.
The .243 calibre bullet passed through Ms Ives' hand, broke her toothbrush and hit her in the face, killing her instantly.
Mears later pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was jailed for 2½ years. He was freed on parole in January after serving 11 months.
Bennett, 26, Dean, 18, and Wolland, 26, all pleaded guilty to breaching the conditions of their hunting permit and were fined $2500 each. Dean was the only member of the group who attended the inquest.
Bennett said in his statement that he heard the shot and then someone yelling that someone had been shot.
"I was stunned, a stunned mullet, the situation was so unreal," he said. "Andrew was panicking ... He was freaked out, we were all running around, it was confusion between us.
"Andrew and Kyle were visibly, terribly upset."
Bennett and Wolland sat in the ute chain smoking for about three hours before being questioned by police.
"We both stayed pretty silent for a long time, just thinking about what happened. When we did talk it was small talk ... to keep our minds off it."
Dean told police in his statement that someone in the ute – he was not sure who – called out "deer".
He shone the torch and Mears fired a shot.
"About a second later we heard this male screaming and yelling from where the eyes were. He yelled, `What the f..., you shot her in the head'."
Dean said he couldn't see Ms Ives' partner, Adam Hyndman, despite shining the light in his direction. "Then I just froze and I dropped the spotlight. Andrew just couldn't believe what happened ... he kept saying, `I'm going to jail, I'm going to jail'."
Ms Ives' mother, Margaret McFarland, said after the inquest that her daughter and Mr Hyndman would not have camped at the Urchin campground if they had known it was a popular area for hunters.
"Rose and Adam were very risk-conscious ... if they had anecdotal evidence the campground was dangerous they would not have gone there."
Conservation Department Turangi area manager David Lumley told the inquest spotlighting occurred infrequently in the area.
Since Ms Ives' death, staff had undertaken 29 operations with police targeting illegal spotlighting and had made four prosecutions, two of which were pending.
Coroner Wallace Bain reserved his decision.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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