Shoe capable of fatal injuries

WENDY MURDOCH
Last updated 16:13 07/12/2012
Phillip Cottrell
MURDERED: Phillip Cottrell, the Radio NZ journalist who died after being beaten in Wellington's Boulcott St.

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The uneven concrete that journalist Phillip Cottrell was found on in central Wellington after he was assaulted would have been unlikely to have caused his fatal head injury, a neurosurgeon says.

In the High Court at Wellington today Martin Hunn said from photographs of the scene he did not see anything on the edge of the concrete in Boulcott St that could have caused the curved break in the skin over Cottrell’s shattered skull.

Cottrell, 43, had a condition that caused brittle bones, but Hunn said the piece of skull that was cut out of Cottrell during surgery seemed the same as for a normal healthy adult.

Cottrell died after being assaulted walking home from a night shift at Radio New Zealand almost a year ago.

Hunn said emergency surgery was done to try to rescue the situation even though there were already signs that Cottrell had only an extremely small chance of survival.

Hunn was giving evidence at the trial of  Nicho Allan Waipuka, 20, and Manuel Renera Robinson, 18, who have pleaded not guilty to murdering Cottrell.

Hunn said on the front and left of Cottrell’s head there were multiple small fractures and several fractures radiating outwards.

Although a small improvement was seen at first, Cottrell’s brain started to swell alarmingly and there was “torrential” bleeding.

He died the following day.

Hunn said Cottrell’s injuries reminded him of two cases where the cause of the injury had been known.

One was caused by a vase and the other a hammer, both driven with great force.

In court he was shown two pairs of shoes and asked if a shoe could be consistent with causing that type of injury.

Hunn said the curved edges of the toe and heel of one pair with a relatively hard sole could have caused it if used with sufficient force.

The other pair of shoes had a softer sole and he was less certain about the toe of those shoes, but the heel could have caused the injury, he said.

Hunn said the pattern of fractures to Cottrell’s skull was more extensive than he usually saw, so his underlying brittle bones condition played a part in the extent to which the skull fractured.

Even so, significant force would have caused the degree of fracturing, Hunn said.

Cottrell’s bone condition may have predisposed his brain to bleed more.

The trial continues on Monday, the first anniversary of the assault on Cottrell.

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