Sex workers say Mob 'owned streets'

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 17:06 11/02/2014
Ngatai
Ngatai "Mellory" Manning.

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A "big direct down splash" was heard from the Avon River on the night Christchurch prostitute Mellory Manning was killed.

A woman leaving a friend's house in Avonside Drive, beside the river, gave evidence today, the second day of a trial into the killing of Ngatai "Mellory" Manning.

Mauha Huatahi Fawcett, 26, is defending himself in the High Court in Christchurch, where he faces a charge of murdering Manning, 27, on or about December 18, 2008.

Her partly naked body was found in the river on December 19, 2008.

The woman heard the splash about 11pm while talking to the friend by her car on his driveway. The sound came from towards Morris St, a short distance away.

"It was a big direct down splash," she said. "It was quite a crisp, clear sound.

"I dismissed it in my mind as a dog jumped in the river and let it go."

While they were still talking, two cars went past, from Morris St towards Retreat Rd, a minute or two apart, the woman said.

Morris St joins Galbraith Ave, where police say Manning was murdered.

She thought that for two cars to drive by so soon after each other was unusual in the quiet area. The woman then left the friend's address.

A man told the court earlier this afternoon that he heard a "horrible, blood-curdling female-getting-attacked" scream the same night.

The witness, who has name suppression, told the court what he heard from his ex-partner's home a few doors down from a Mongrel Mob "pad" in Galbraith Ave.

The scream was sometime between 10pm and midnight and lasted 10 to 15 seconds. He had had the windows open as it was a hot night, he said.

However, he did not investigate because that was "usual" for that area. His former partner had a look around but found nothing.

The man knew Manning because he used to sell her drugs. He had not seen her since December 2006.

MOB PRESENCE ESCALATED BEFORE KILLING

The court heard earlier today that the Mongrel Mob presence in Manchester St had increased dramatically about two months before Manning died.

In evidence read to the court, one sex worker said there had been no trouble with gangs on the streets until a couple of months before Manning was killed.

"Suddenly the mob were all over the street, hitting up the girls for $20 a job."

Another street worker associated with the Mongrel Mob would drive around in a car with a mobster in the front seat, the woman said.

"They would tell me they owned the streets, so I owed them money."

A few nights after Manning was killed, the woman and the mobster pulled up in a white car while she was working on the street, the sex worker said.

They tried to convince her to get in.

She thought that if she complied, she would be raped and killed, so she arranged to meet them at another corner then ran away.

"I thought if I got in that car I would never be seen again."

"Little Mutt", similar to the name "Little Muck", which the court heard earlier was the name used for Fawcett, drove a red car, the woman said.

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Another street worker gave evidence that Manchester St was "breaking up into areas" at the time of the killing.

The Mongrel Mob had its own "territory" where they minded their working girls, she said.

MELLORY'S PARTNER: SHE WAS 'CHOOSY' ABOUT CLIENTS

A statement from Kent Gorrie, Manning's partner at the time of her death, was read to the court.

In it, Gorrie said Manning had worked on the streets since she was 14, and knew how to look after herself.

He said he used to be Manning's minder and rejected the suggestion that they paid a "tax" to the Mongrel Mob.

"We would never pay tax to anyone on the street."

Manning had been raped previously and thrown out of moving cars.

She was one of the first to work as far down as Peterborough St and was "very territorial about her corner", Gorrie said.

Manning was "choosy" about her clients and always used condoms with clients for all sex work.

She made other working girls angry because she would get more clients and money, because she was younger and prettier.

Gorrie said Manning's stepfather had been a Mongrel Mob member when he was younger. She knew all the gangs.

"She would not get in a car with someone she did not like the look of," he said.

"She would never get into a car with anyone from the Mongrel Mob for a job."

Gorrie said that before Manning's death, they were both on the methadone programme and had hoped to have a baby.

Manning had also reconnected with her mother.

"We were going to straighten our lives out," he said.

MANNING'S SISTER DIED SHORTLY BEFORE KILLING

Manning spoke to a stranger about losing her sister to drugs only hours before she was allegedly murdered.

Manning had thumbed a ride from Riccarton to central Christchurch on the night she died.

The court heard a statement from the man who picked her up about 9pm in Curletts Rd. He said he could tell she was a working girl, though she was dressed "quite tidy".

He told her she looked "stunning" and would do a "roaring trade". She told him there were "not many nice guys left" and that he was "nicer than her boyfriend".

She told him she was on the methadone programme and "she'd lost her sister to drugs".

This hit home for him as he had also recently lost a family member. He gave her his cellphone number when he dropped her off, and they talked about meeting later.

He was surprised that he never heard from her so when saw her face on the news two nights later, he "felt sick".

LIGHT RAIN HAMPERS INVESTIGATION

Light rain on the night Manning was killed made it difficult for police to identify vehicles on Manchester St from crime camera footage.

Detective Murray Batchelor told the court that police working on the homicide inquiry obtained footage from 10 CCTV cameras in the area.

However, the weather meant the footage of vehicles was blurry. All that police could identify was whether they were four-wheel-drives, saloons or taxis.

Initially, 19 vehicle makes and models were identified as being "of interest" to the inquiry. These were compared with those on the CCTV footage.

"The limited camera coverage made it difficult to say if the vehicles I was asked to locate were there or not," Batchelor said.

Batchelor was unable to find the red Toyota Corolla driven by Fawcett around the time of the murder.

AN OLD MAN 'LOOKED AFTER' MANNING – WITNESSES

Various witnesses have spoken of Manning spending time with an old man.

He regularly picked her up, took her driving and would buy her clothes and other items.

This man "looked after her" and did not like her working on the street, one witness said.

The trial is continuing.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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