Accused 'was looking for Manning'

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 17:11 12/02/2014
Ngatai
Ngatai "Mellory" Manning.
Mauha Huatahi Fawcett
John Kirk-Anderson
ACCUSED: Mauha Huatahi Fawcett appears in the Christchurch High Court. He denies murdering Ngatai "Mellory" Manning.

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Murder-accused Mauha Huatahi Fawcett and a patched Mongrel Mob member were looking for Christchurch prostitute Mellory Manning on the night she was killed, a court has heard.

It was believed Manning, 27, was killed on or about the night of December 19, 2008.

The Crown said Manning was picked up from her usual spot, on the corner of Manchester and Peterborough streets in Christchurch, and taken to a Mongrel Mob "pad" on Galbraith Ave, Avonside, where she was raped, bashed with weapons, stabbed and strangled before her body was dumped in the Avon River. 

It says Fawcett, 26, was among those involved in the killing.

A woman, whose details are suppressed, told the High Court trial of Fawcett in Christchurch today that she was told of the gang's search for Manning while sharing cannabis in a red car driven by "Muckdog" – Fawcett's nickname – about 10.30pm on December 18.

The woman said a patched Mongrel Mob member had been in the front seat. The three of them shared two or three "cones" of cannabis for about five to 15 minutes while parked on the side of Manchester St, between Kilmore and Peterborough streets.

The pair asked her if she had seen "a chick called Mel", she said.

"They were looking for her," she said. "They said that she was owing money.

"I assumed it was for drug money or something."

Fawcett had done most of the talking, she said.

She did not know Manning. She had seen someone standing on the corner of Peterborough and Manchester streets that night, but did not know it was Manning until later, she said.

She got out of the car and Fawcett and the gang member drove away.

"They were gonna go have a look up the street, just to see if she [Mel] was gonna be out on the street," the woman said.

She did not know where the car went.

The trial has finished early today.

Barrister Craig Ruane, who was appointed to assist Fawcett in his defence and assist the court, will cross-examine the woman tomorrow.

Earlier the court was told cellphone data suggested prostitute Mellory Manning was on the move at 10.43pm on the night she was killed.

Evidence heard today, the third day of the trial, focussed on cellphone data from Manning's phone and one used by Fawcett and another gang member.

Manning's body was found in the Avon on the morning of December 19, 2008.

SEQUENCE OF CELLPHONE CALLS

The court has heard:

9.31pm: Manning sent a text message to a stranger who gave her a ride into town, suggesting she arrived in the central city about that time. This went through the Moorhouse Ave cellphone tower. 

10.41pm: Manning received a text message from her second client of the night. This went through the PricewaterhouseCoopers building cellphone tower on Armagh St, suggesting she was near her corner. 

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10.43.06: Manning replied to her client. This went through the Bealey Ave West cellphone tower. A Vodafone radio frequency engineer said this indicated it was unlikely the phone was near the corner of Manchester and Peterborough streets at that moment. 

10.43.59: The second client sent a reply, but Manning's phone did not receive it. This suggested her phone was turned off. 

Meanwhile, a cellphone attributed to both Fawcett and another gang member was on the move around the same time, the court heard. 

A call was made from this phone at 10.43.50pm and lasted just under a minute.

During the call, the phone moved through two cellphone tower zones, suggesting the phone was moving north away from the Manchester and Colombo streets area. 

However, the signals showed this phone was likely to be some distance away from Manning's phone.

A text message received by this phone at 11.01pm suggested it was back in the central city. 

Evidence from witnesses who were in Avonside on that night included a scream being heard coming from the direction of the Mongrel Mob address between 10pm and midnight, and a splash and the sounds of crinkling plastic or tarpaulin being heard on Avonside Drive around 11pm.

'HORRIBLE' SCREAMS HEARD

A "horrible, blood-curdling female-getting-attacked" scream was heard on the night Manning was killed.

The description came from a man giving evidence on day two of the trial. 

The witness, who has name suppression, heard the scream while he was at his former partner's Avonside home, a few doors down from a Mongrel Mob address on Galbraith Ave.

It rang out sometime between 10pm and midnight, came from the direction of the gang address and lasted 10 to 15 seconds, the man said.

However, he did not investigate because that was "pretty usual" for that area.

Police believe Manning was murdered at the address after being picked up from the corner of Manchester and Peterborough streets before her body was dumped in the Avon River.

A loud splash was heard on Avonside Drive about 11pm the same day.

A different man and woman had been talking outside an Avonside Drive address, near Morris St. "It was a big direct down splash", the woman said.

The man said he also heard a slow crinkling sound, like plastic or tarpaulin, both before and after the splash. He walked north along the river towards the sounds but "stopped dead cold" and retreated because he "knew something was not right".

Both of them saw two cars - one of them red - drive past them about a minute apart.

However, their evidence differed on vehicles' direction and whether they went past before or after the splash.

The man said after the sounds, a third, truck-like vehicle started up and drove past them slowly, about 5kmh, heading south on Avonside Drive.

When it came close, the driver turned the lights on full beam. "It just crept past us. Whoever was in the vehicle was sussing [us] out," the man said.

The trial continues.

- The Press

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