'Chewbacca' blamed for abusive texts

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 10:22 29/07/2014

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A New Plymouth man blamed for a violent attack on an Eltham man has told a jury his uncle - now deceased - and his mate called Chewbacca must have done the damage.

Tamati Thomas, 33, unemployed of New Plymouth, spent the second day in the witness box in the New Plymouth District Court yesterday arguing the police got the wrong man when he was arrested on July 20 last year.

The worst-injured, Wayne Waller, ended up in intensive care at Taranaki Base Hospital with head injuries.

Police have failed to track down a second man involved in the attack.

Thomas was arrested at his New Plymouth home just before midnight.

He was charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, injuring with intent, assault with a weapon, breaching a protection order and threatening to cause grievous bodily harm.

Giving evidence in his own defence Thomas told his lawyer, Susan Hughes QC, that his uncle, Nicky Coleman, came to visit him along with his friend on July 20.

Thomas said he only knew the friend by his nickname, Chewbacca.

Thomas said his uncle was heading down to Eltham to pick something up from the township and coming back.

Thomas said he returned his uncle's cellphone about 9pm.

Any texts to his former partner, Stacey Nolly, from the time he handed over the phone to his uncle would have been texts he told his uncle to send to Nolly, Thomas said.

His uncle told Thomas that when he was in Eltham he would visit the house where Nolly was attending a children's party with their children to see what was going on, Thomas said.

Clarke said Thomas' story was a figment of his imagination and a total fabrication.

It was clear he still had the phone, she said. Thomas had got home from Eltham just before police arrived about 11.45pm.

Thomas said his uncle was stopping in to the Eltham house to see how Thomas' kids were ''and they must have got jumped or something''.

During cross-examination on Friday, Ms Clarke asked Thomas if his uncle was coming to give evidence.

''Not that I know of 'cos I don't think he'll be here.

''Well if he's the one that took back your phone, haven't you talked to him about it?'' Clarke asked.

''No I haven't.''

''Why on earth not?''

''Well, 'cos I don't see the point. I can't because he's not with us no more.''

He's passed away,'' Thomas said.

''So he told Chewbacca what to put in the texts?'' Ms Clarke said.

''Pretty much, yeah,'' Thomas replied.

Clarke said Thomas' uncle looked nothing like Thomas. He had long straggly hair, had a medium to thin build, 58 years old and had a distinctive tattoo of a spider across his neck.

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The protection order that required Thomas not to intimidate Nolly was broken in the string of 30 or more angry texts he sent her earlier that day, Clarke said.

''You texted her that you were 'going out with a f------ bang, bitch' ''. You couldn't get any more threatening than that,'' Clarke said.

Thomas replied that he and Nolly had been together for 10 years and that was the normal way they talked to each other.

Yesterday Clarke said Amber George who was staying with Thomas on July 20 had received a text from Thomas' cellphone at 11.26pm asking: ''Have the cops been?''

No one other than Thomas would have had reason to text George to ask that question, Ms Clarke said.
And George texted him back at 11.31pm, ''Na, they haven't been''.

Thomas had then texted: ''I might be locked up after this'', Clarke said.

Thomas denied he sent the texts.

For the defence, Thomas' older sister Arlea Coleman, of Auckland, said she visited her brother at his New Plymouth home about 11pm on July 20 with Dylan Marriott. Her brother, Tamati Thomas, was at home at that time, Coleman said.

She agreed she told police she did not want to talk to them after his  arrest because she did not want to be responsible for putting him in jail.

Amber George, of Auckland, gave evidence that she was staying with Thomas on July 20, and in bed nursing a hangover from the night before. Thomas was home all night until he was arrested when she  left the house.

- Taranaki Daily News

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