Murder-accused denies charge
Murder accused Mauha Huatahi Fawcett told the police he said "Sieg heil" and barked like a dog along with other Mongrel Mob members during the assault that killed Christchurch sex worker Ngatai Lynette Manning, the Crown says.
Crown prosecutor Pip Currie said it was the Crown case that Fawcett, now aged 26, had been directed to stab Manning, aged 27, when he was a gang prospect for the Aotearoa chapter of the Mongrel Mob in December 2008.
She told the High Court in Christchurch that the gang had been involved in "minding" and "taxing" sex workers plying their trade along the city's red light district in Manchester Street.
The case against Fawcett, who was arrested in Auckland in March 2012, is based on a series of statements he gave to the police during the long inquiry. He later retracted some of the details he told them.
Today was the first day of the six-week trial in the High Court at Christchurch. Justice David Gendall told the jury members that they must keep an open mind right to the end, and must decide the case objectively and methodically.
Fawcett pleaded not guilty and will conduct his own defence. Defence lawyer Craig Ruane has been appointed an amicus curiae to advise Fawcett and assist the court during the trial.
Phil Shamy, Pip Currie, and Arpana Raj appear for the Crown in the trial, at which evidence will be called from about 150 witnesses.
Manning, also known as Mellory Manning, had been doing sex work along Manchester Street when she was last seen, and her body was found in the Avon River next morning, showing evidence of a brutal bashing.
Currie said in her opening address that Fawcett and others who were associated with the Mongrel Mob murdered Miss Manning on the night of December 18, 2008.
She had begun work that night about 9.30pm and had several clients before she was last seen about 10.35pm to 10.40pm.
"Around that time, Mongrel Mob members managed to get Miss Manning into a vehicle. She was taken to their (gang) pad in Galbraith Avenue in Avonside. At that address she received the fatal injuries following a violent attack carried out by a number of persons at that address.
"Just after 6.30am her partially naked body was discovered floating in the Avon River, a few hundred metres from Galbraith Avenue."
The post mortem examination showed several types of life-threatening injuries. She had blunt force head injuries, bruises from manual strangulation, and stab wounds to the chest.
The police investigation that followed was difficult because of the type of witnesses, who might not wish to talk freely to the police: sex workers, their clients, gang members and associates.
Fawcett was interviewed and it was evident he was involved in looking after the sex workers and taxing them for each job they did. He said he left Christchurch for personal reasons shortly after Miss Manning's death.
He was spoken to again in late 2009 and early 2010 when he said her death had been a planned hit by the mob, and admitted taking part in the attack himself and the disposal of her body.
He confirmed she had been picked up off the street, and described the attack by several people using weapons.
"He tried to backtrack in one of the later statements," she said. He said he personally had not been involved, but had been a look-out.
He said he was supposed to do the hit "so he could get patched up" and was told to stab her, but did not want to do that and did not do it. He said that others did it, and he went "Sieg heil" and barked like a dog as other mob members were doing during the assault.
When he was arrested in March 2012, Fawcett said he was not involved and had not seen anything of what went on.
Currie said jury members would hear evidence about lifestyles that were totally foreign to them, but they must set aside feelings of sympathy and prejudice and decide the case dispassionately and objectively.
Currie outlined differing accounts that Fawcett had given to the police in his various statements, including his final claim that he did not know what happened at the crucial time.
He told the police that Manning had spat in the face of another Mob member when they went to collect money from her. There was then a struggle and the other Mob member "went overboard".
Fawcett said then that he had no role in the death and had not watched what happened.
He said he had been told that he and a woman who he alleged had stabbed Manning were told to "take the rap".
The pathologist would say that Manning would have succumbed very rapidly to her wounds and would almost certainly have been dead when she was put into the Avon River.
Currie explained that the Crown had charged Fawcett as a joint principal offender in the murder case, or as a party to the murder.
"His involvement, even at a lesser level than others, is still sufficient to make him a party and guilty of murder."
Fawcett made a brief opening statement, speaking very softly.
He said he was not guilty of manslaughter, or murder, or being a party to these offences.
He said he had given false information because of pressure put on by the police.
This crime was "totally out of character" and he was "shocked to be standing here today".
The Crown then began calling evidence from its witnesses.