Ewen Macdonald found not guilty

DEBORAH MORRIS AND PALOMA MIGONE
Last updated 16:59 03/07/2012
FAIRFAX MEDIA

Jimmy Ellingham reports on the verdict at the trial of Ewen Macdonald, who was charged with murdering his brother-in-law Scott Guy.

Scott Guy
SCOTT GUY: Killed in 2010.
DO NOT USE Ewen Macdonald trial
CRAIG SIMCOX/Dominion Post Zoom
Murder accused Ewen Kerry Macdonald.
DO NOT USE: Scott Guy trial key players
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Dominion Post Zoom
Ewen Macdonald was charged with murdering his brother-in-law Scott Guy. The Crown argued that he killed Guy with the farm's shotgun over tensions about the future of the family farm in Feilding.

Bryan Guy statement

Police respond to Guy murder verdict

Anna Macdonald
Anna Macdonald reacts outside court after the verdict was read.

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Scott Guy's father, Bryan Guy, says his family is relieved the trial is over, but they have been left wondering who is responsible for death of his son.

The jury considering whether Macdonald murdered his brother-in-law found him not guilty this afternoon after nearly 11 hours of deliberation.

Kylee Guy, Scott Guy's wife, reacted to the jury's verdict on the charge against Macdonald by storming out of the courtroom screaming he "killed'' her husband.

Macdonald was accused of killing 31-year-old Guy outside his rural Aorangi Rd property about 4.43am on July 8, 2010, over tensions about the family farm's future.

He had already admitted to setting fire to an old house on Scott Guy's property, vandalising his new house, and stealing two deer from a nearby farm.

The verdict ends a four-week legal struggle over evidence, motive and circumstance in the High Court in Wellington.

Speaking outside the court, Bryan Guy said the family had been "overwhelmed and touched by the love and caring of New Zealanders''.

"The support and prayers of our friends and strangers alike in our local community and through the country have given us strength and courage.

The acquittal had left his family with mixed emotions, he said.

"While we are relieved the trial is over, we are obviously left wondering who is responsible for the death of our son.

"This verdict today will not bring Scott back. This verdict will not restore a father to his children. It will not restore a husband to his wife. It will not restore a son and brother to his family.

The family's lives had been altered forever, he said.

"The pain of our broken hearts is at times almost too much to bear. However, through this tragedy we have learnt a lot. Mostly about ourselves, what we stand for, what our values are, what is important to us.

"We have learnt how important a father is to his children. We know that a father can never be replaced, but with strong family and community values and support, there is hope for the future.

"We are thankful for how Scott touched our lives and we are richer for him being part of it. We must focus on what we have, not what we have lost. We are determined to love and support our children and grandchildren in their future.

Anna Macdonald, Ewen Macdonald's wife and Scott's sister, was clinging to her father Bryan Guy with tears rolling down her face when the verdict was read.

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Ewen Macdonald, crying, was helped from the dock by his prison escorts after the judge discharged him.

After a short break Justice Simon France returned to court and remanded Macdonald to a callover for a sentencing date to be fixed on other charges he faced and is to be sentenced on.

He will appear next in the Palmerston North District Court on July 31, and is still in custody.

Detective Inspector Sue Schwalger, head of the murder inquiry, spoke to media after the verdict.

"We accept the decision of the jury," she said.

"The role of the police is to gather all information available, assess it for its relevance to the case and present the best evidence to the court and then leave it to the jury to make a decision.

"It has been a long and challenging two-year journey for everyone involved in both investigation and the trial, especially the families. And I wish to acknowledge their strength and courage displayed throughout."

She said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the inquiry but would assess any new information that came to light.

"I want to thank the jury for their careful consideration of the facts.

"It is also important to acknowledge the overwhelming support that the local community and wider public gave to the investigation and Mr Guy's family. In any serious crime investigation, regardless of the outcome, public information is invaluable."

THE TRIAL

During closing arguments last week, Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk said Macdonald had the skill and the state of mind required to kill Guy, and asked the jury to give a verdict based on "common sense".

He said Macdonald knew when Guy would be leaving home, where the farm shotgun was and owned the dive boots with distinctive soles found on the crime scene.

However, defence lawyer Greg King said there were four fatal flaws in the Crown case including that three of the four Crown witnesses heard shots about 5am when Macdonald was at work.

"There is not simply reasonable doubt in this case, but there is an absolute abundance of it".

King described Macdonald's crimes of vandalism and arson as "despicable" acts - but said he was not a murderer.

The high profile case has gripped the country for nearly two years.

The public gallery was packed almost every day during the trial, and at one point about 100 people lined up to get a glimpse of the proceedings inside.


Friends, colleagues and family of both Guy and Macdonald, including wives Kylee Guy and Anna Macdonald testified, often holding back tears in the witness box.

Macdonald showed little emotion in the dock, spending a lot time taking notes.

He broke down in tears when his wife told the jury their life had never been more perfect up until Guy's death.

Vanderkolk argued that Macdonald carried out a campaign of intimidation against Guy and his wife Kylee since tensions began brewing between the two men in 2008.

When that failed, he turned to murder, Vanderkolk said.

He alleged Macdonald closed the farm gates that were normally open, forcing Guy out of his ute and trapping him.

Vanderkolk said he then shot Guy twice, first in the throat and then in the face and arms.

According to the Crown, Macdonald wore size-nine Proline dive boots that he bought in March 2004 to commit the crime, and he used the farm shotgun.

The gun was normally locked away, but was found with an ammunition belt near the farm office door on the day of Guy's death.

After the murder, Macdonald allegedly then rode a bicycle 1.46km down the road to Byreburn, arriving just after 5am, and carried on with the morning milking.

Vanderkolk said he killed and buried three chocolate Labrador puppies located in a shed about 80m from the house in order to deter police.

Macdonald was also heard telling Guy's sister Nikki that he had been shot, when those who had seen the body, including police, believed at that stage his throat had been cut.

The Court was played a video of Macdonald where he spent the first few hours lying about the theft, arson and vandalism to police.

He later admitted to the crimes when police revealed that his accomplice Callum Boe had confessed.

Macdonald told police that anger at Guy fuelled his and Boe's attack on the new home, but continued to deny the murder.

"I wouldn't take someone's life. I've never been that extreme," he said.

Police told the Court they excavated parts of 300-hectare Feilding farm, where Macdonald was living, looking for dive boots, dead puppies and shotgun cartridges, among other things. They found nothing.

King said police should have tried harder. He grilled forensic David Neale about the measurement of footprints found at the crime scene.

Neale told the Court he determined boot impressions by measuring the width of the heel and forefoot, which determined the more than 50 footprints next to Guy's body were size 9.

However, King said there was between 32 and 33 rows of waves on the plaster impressions, more than the size-9 Proline boot in evidence.

He also called American shooting champion Mitchell Maxberry as an expert witness, who said it would take him seven seconds to fire two shots, reload and fire a third shot with a double-barrelled shotgun, like the one the Crown said Macdonald used to kill Guy.

Two Crown witnesses told the Court they heard three shots in succession.

King said that was too quick for the farm shotgun, and a semi-automatic gun would have been used.

Other holes in the Crown's case were that a car was seen near a house and a cigarette packet found outside the house matched one stolen by a burglar with a history of shotgun crimes, King said.

"Look at the evidence in a way that divorces it from emotion, look objectively, look at cold, hard evidence and the Crown case fails," he told the jury.

"What happened was a tragedy and should not have happened but this mystery is not solved."

- Stuff

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