Work and Income shooter took just 61 seconds to kill two women

Jury empanelling began on Wednesday for the trial of Russell John Tully, charged with murdering two Ashburton Work and ...

Jury empanelling began on Wednesday for the trial of Russell John Tully, charged with murdering two Ashburton Work and Income staffers in 2014.

It took just 61 seconds for Russell John Tully to blast his way through the Ashburton Work and Income office, murdering two women and attempting to murder two others, the Crown alleges.

Crown prosecutor Andrew McRae opened the case in the High Court at Christchurch against the 49-year-old who is alleged to be the balaclava-clad man who committed the shotgun rampage through the office on September 1, 2014.

McRae told the jury identification of the shooter was going to be the issue at the trial.

"The Crown says on that issue the evidence is absolutely overwhelming."

He said the shooter confronted in the street after the shootings, and was distracted enough to leave behind his bicycle lock and cycle helmet.

Environmental Science and Research tested the helmet and extracted Tully's DNA from it.

Tully, who is not in court and had not guilty pleas entered in his absence, is on trial for the murders of Peggy Turuhira Noble and Susan Leigh Cleveland, and the attempted murders of Lindy Louise Curtis and Kim Elizabeth Adams.

He is also charged with setting a man trap – a steel wire – and unlawful possession of two shotguns.

Tully also has no lawyer of his own, but is represented in court by two amicus curiae, James Rapley and Phil Shamy. The Crown is represented by Andrew McRae from Timaru and Mark Zarifeh.

The trial is expected to last three weeks.

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McRae said the shootings arose from Tully's grievances with Work and Income over his earlier dealings with them.

He said Tully's shootings took place over 61 seconds at 9.51am on September 1, 2014.

The Crown said he went there targeting Leigh Cleveland, a case worker who had dealt with him, and Kim Adams.

"He intended to try to kill as many Work and Income staff as he could."

He went up beside Peggy Noble who was on the reception desk, lifted a shotgun and fired into her chest, killing her almost instantly.

People then began running from the premises.

He fired at Kim Adams as she left through a door to a back room. She felt the "woosh" as the solid shot passed close to her body.

He then found Lindy Curtis hiding under a desk with a client, and fired at her. As he fired, she lifted her leg and was hit in the thigh rather than in the body or head – potentially life-threatening injuries.

The client hiding beneath the desk was not targeted, because he was not part of Tully's grievances against the ministry.

The shooter then moved to the back of the building where he saw another of his specific targets, Leigh Cleveland. She was the staff member he was most dissatisfied with. He shot her three times, killing her.

He then casually left the offices, removing the balaclava. He was seen by a witness walking along the road, and unlocked his bike at a rubbish bin.

Someone else who had been at the office confronted him there. He abused the gunman for what he had done, and got as close as he dared. He distracted Tully sufficiently that he left the cycle helmet and lock behind.

A police search found Tully at a farm west of Lake Hood at 5.30pm. He was pulled from under a hedge, with a different shotgun – not used in the shooting – and ammunition.

He had a piece of paper with the words: "Kim Adams, Leigh Cleveland. Discrimination." The Crown said this showed his intentions and his grievances.

McRae said Tully had been living in camping grounds or living rough in the Ashburton area. Work and Income had helped him get a mountainbike, and the local newspaper had interviewed and photographed him about his battles with the Ministry of Social Development and the fact he was homeless.

The jury was then showed a compilation of the CCTV footage of the shootings.

The Crown alleged that Tully used the symbol "inX" to mark items of his property.

That symbol was found on a shotgun shell case at the Work and Income office. McRae said the shotgun used in the shooting had never been found, despite an extensive search of the Ashburton River and its banks.


Tully was not in court when the charges were read on Wednesday morning, and was deemed to have entered not guilty pleas in his absence.

Justice Mander told the jury they must not hold it against Tully that he was not present, in deciding the case.

He said it was an unusual but not unheard of situation. The law provided or allowed for a trial to proceed in the absence of the defendant.

He told the jury: "I have determined that it is appropriate and in the interests of justice that the trial proceed despite Mr Tully's absence. That is my responsibility, in making that decision. It is not a issue you need to concern yourself about. Please don't speculate about why he's absent.

"You need not concern yourselves about the reasons why he is not physically in court. It is just the circumstance of this trial, regrettable as it may be. Your role will be no different because he is not present here in the courtroom."

It was unclear whether Tully would be present in court later in the trial.

He said Tully had amicus curiae appointed to give advice because he did not have a lawyer. He had been "afforded the opportunity of having legal representation but as as events have transpired, he is not legally represented".

The trial was expected to last three weeks, with the Crown planning to call evidence from about 80 witnesses.

A juror was discharged late on the first day, and the trial continued with 11 remaining jurors.

 - Stuff

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