Murder-accused offered guilty plea

Last updated 12:34 14/12/2012
Phillip Cottrell
MURDERED: Phillip Cottrell, the Radio NZ journalist who died after being beaten in Wellington's Boulcott St.

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Nicho Allan Waipuka had offered to plead guilty if the charge of murdering journalist Phillip Cottrell was dropped to manslaughter, a senior police officer has confirmed.

In the High Court at Wellington today Detective Senior Sergeant Scott Miller agreed under cross examination that Waipuka's lawyer wrote to police in March this year with the offer.

Waipuka, 20, is on trial in the High Court at Wellington, alongside Manuel Renera Robinson, 18, having pleaded not guilty of murdering  Cottrell.

Cottrell, 43, was attacked walking home at about 5.30am after a night shift at Radio New Zealand where he was a bulletin editor.

He died the next day from severe head injuries.

Waipuka admits hitting  Cottrell and taking his wallet. Robinson says he was on the other side of the street and not involved.

But in the opening words of his final address to the jury Crown Prosecutor Grant Burston said both accused were aggressive to other strangers in the early hours of December 10, last year. Both made admissions to various people afterwards,  Burston said.

Waipuka's evidence, from a security consultant who calculated times for running and walking on Boulcott St, where  Cottrell was attacked, has already been heard in the course of the Crown case.

Robinson did not call evidence and the trial has now entered the final stages with the lawyers' addressing the jury and the judge expected to sum-up the case on Monday at the start of the third week of the trial.

Burston told the jury today that Waipuka and Robinson had been fuelled by a lethal mix of aggression and pack mentality, attacking  Cottrell because they felt like it, wanted money, and they could.

"They were the power on the street and they felt they could do what they liked and get away with it."

Cottrell, a regular gym-goer despite the condition that made his bones brittle, would likely have sped up to avoid a confrontation with them, trying to get past before they could do anything to him.

Burston said the calculations of how long it would have taken to get from the point where  Cottrell was last seen on security camera footage to the spot where he was attacked, was based on assumptions.

It could not reliably be assumed that  Cottrell would have maintained the same pace as when he passed the camera.

The window of opportunity to make the short, brutal and nasty attack on  Cottrell did not have to be large,  Burston said.

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- The Dominion Post

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