Police shooting trial: 10-minute phone call with cop got alleged shooter out of house

Inspector Warwick Morehu was key to ending the police stand-off with 27-year-old Rhys Warren.
REBEKAH PARSONS-KING/FAIRFAX NZ

Inspector Warwick Morehu was key to ending the police stand-off with 27-year-old Rhys Warren.

The police officer who helped bring a safe end to an armed siege also got the alleged shooter to reveal his stash of guns, a High Court has heard. 

The Crown has wrapped up its case against  Rhys Richard Ngahiwi Warren, who is accused of shooting four police officers during an armed siege near Kawerau in Bay of Plenty.

Now it is Warren's turn to convince a High Court jury in Hamilton that he was not responsible for the injuries the four officers suffered.

Rhys Warren is charged with two counts of attempted murder, three counts of using a firearm against a law enforcement ...
MARK TAYLOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Rhys Warren is charged with two counts of attempted murder, three counts of using a firearm against a law enforcement officer, and one of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Warren, 28, is accused of two counts of attempted murder, three counts of using a firearm against a law enforcement officer, and one of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

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The Crown alleges the four officers – Constable Regan Mauheni, Constable Damian White, Constable Andrew Flinn, and Sergeant Logan Marsh – were all shot by Warren on March 9, 2016, inside a house on Onepu Springs Rd, about 5 kilometres from Kawerau.

The squad members were at the home because shots had allegedly been fired at or near police and a police plane during a cannabis clearance operation earlier in the day.

Warren was arrested following a 22-hour siege of the property.

One of the police officers who is credited with helping bring that siege to a peaceful resolution gave evidence on Tuesday.

Taupo area commander Inspector Warwick Morehu told the jury of seven women and four men about how he had been on duty that night when he heard about the ongoing police operation.

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Morehu, who was formerly stationed as a senior sergeant in Kawerau, made contact with one of Warren's extended family about 10pm that night, and subsequently received a phone call from Warren's mother shortly after midnight. 

He travelled to Onepu and, shortly after 7.30am the next day, had a 10-minute phone call with Warren, who was still inside the house.

Under questioning from Crown solicitor Aaron Perkins QC, Morehu said the objective of the call was to ensure that Warren "came out of the house safely".

Warren did so, and after undergoing a brief medical examination he and Morehu had a subsequent conversation in the back of a police car.

It was during that exchange that Warren divulged the location of two firearms still inside the house: A rifle was in the hallway, and there was a police-issue Glock handgun, which had been stashed behind a hot water cylinder.

"I did ask him if there was a shotgun in the house. He advised there wasn't."

Warren, who is conducting his own defence, had only a few questions for Morehu.

"Are you aware that my whanau ... told me I could trust you?" he asked.

"That was a conversation that was had by some of your family members with me, yes," Morehu replied.

"Would you agree that it was my family that got me out safely ... with your help?" Warren asked.

At that point Justice Timothy Brewer, who is overseeing the trial, said Warren should define what he meant by "safely".

"What I mean is that the police did not shoot me," Warren said.

Morehu replied: "If that's what they think, you can't argue with that. I think it was a team effort that got you out at the end of the day."

Justice Brewer allowed Warren Tuesday afternoon to plan how he wants to conduct his own defence.

He has formally elected to give evidence on his own behalf, and he will present his opening address to the jury on Wednesday morning.

Earlier in the day, Institute of Environmental Science and Research scientist and firearms expert Gerhard Wevers was cross-examined by Warren, about evidence he gave earlier in the trial regarding the direction of bullets and the distribution patterns of shrapnel.

Wevers had reconstructed the incident in his scene examination, and many aspects of this were questioned by Warren, including whether it was possible shots were fired into the house from outside, and which side of White's safety goggles had been most badly damaged by flying shrapnel from a bullet that allegedly struck the scope of his own M4 rifle.

Warren had some allegations of his own.

"It appears [the reconstruction] is a dress rehearsal. It appears that you and Mr White and Mr Mauheni have colluded together," he said.

 "No," Wevers replied.

"Were you leading an independent examination or were you being led by the police to examine what they wanted you to examine?" Warren asked.

"It was an independent examination," Wevers replied.

Warren asked: "Is friendly fire possible?"

Wevers said it was not.

Criminal litigator Ron Mansfield, who is acting as "counsel to court" at Justice Brewer's request, also had questions for Wevers, including whether a .303 bullet cartridge found in the toilet bowl was too heavy to flush.

Wevers said he was unable to give a firm answer on that without conducting experiments to see whether it was possible.

The trial continues.

 - Stuff

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