The wife of a farmer on a property where about $35,000 in buried cash went missing was seen as the likely suspect by the people involved, a court has heard.
The disappearance of the bundle of cash featured on the second day of the High Court trial of four people before Justice Dobson and a jury in Christchurch.
The four are charged with making threats to the safety of the farmer and his family after the cash went missing a year ago from where it was buried inside a locked deer shed on a Nelson farm.
The four deny the allegation of blackmail, either as principal offenders or as parties. They are Terry Jones, 43, and his partner, Anna Heloise Horgan, 37, of Nelson, and Ritchie Stuart Clutterbuck, 49, and Leon Delshannon Turner, 37, of Christchurch.
The court was told that Jones, who was with the Red Devils motorcycle club, asked the farmer, an old friend, to bury the money on his farm.
It stayed there for months but eventually was found to be missing, and the Crown alleges threats were made to the farmer in a meeting outside a burger outlet in Redwood, Christchurch, by Clutterbuck and Turner.
The trial heard recordings of phone calls between the farmer and Jones, who was in prison at the time. The farmer conceded Jones had made no threats.
The men thought the money could have been taken only by the farmer's wife.
The farmer had been arrested on charges relating to a "falling-out" with his wife, and in his call to Jones he asked whether the money was with "my missus or your missus".
"You are going to have to sort it mate. You know it [the money] wasn't mine," said Jones. "I have others to answer to."
Counsel for Jones, James Rapley, established in cross-examination that the farmer had said he indicated to his wife where the money was buried. He had been surprised to learn that she had gone looking for the money.
The farmer alleged that demands for $150,000 were made at the car-park meeting, and it was stated that there had been $72,000 in the stash. He did not accept those amounts.
He said the men told him: "You are lucky you are a mate of Terry's or you would not be walking and on the ground."
He became upset when threats were made towards his daughter.
He had spoken of putting a caveat over his farm when it was sold.
"I was going to make payment. I won't now, but I was going to," he told the court.
Counsel for Clutterbuck, Bryan Green, put to him: "There was never any threat. You told this story to get out of considerable trouble you were in with the police." The farmer denied that.
Counsel for Horgan, John Sandston, accused the farmer of coming up with a "scam" that the money had gone missing.
He denied that. "I thought that the money was there. I was shocked when it wasn't there."
The farmer agreed that Horgan had asked for the money back and had never threatened him.
He agreed he had "played a game" by asking Horgan to send him a nasty text that he could show to his wife to try to get the missing money back from her. The text was never sent.
The farmer later said he had been confused and wanted to withdraw that testimony.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Why are fewer teens learning to drive?Related story: Teen non-drivers lazy 'narcissists'