Sex workers say Mob 'owned streets'

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 15:35 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 Mellory Manning was killed.

A woman leaving a friend's house on Avonside Dr, beside the river, gave evidence on the second day of a trial into the killing of prostitute 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 Avon River on December 19, 2008.

The woman heard the splash about 11pm while talking to the friend by her car out 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. Morris St joins Galbriath Ave, where police say Manning was murdered.

She thought it was busy to have two cars so close in what was usually a quiet area. The woman then left the friend's address.

The man the woman was speaking to also heard a splash. 

He also heard a slow crinkling sound, like plastic or tarpaulin, both before and after the splash. 

He said two cars - the first was white, the second a red or brown colour - drove past some minutes before he heard the sounds.

Contrary to his friend's evidence, he said the cars travelled north from Retreat Rd towards Morris St. 

After hearing the splash and crinkling sounds, the man, who has name suppression, said he went to investigate.

He walked up the river, under the canopy of willow trees, towards the direction of the sounds. 

"I was stopped dead cold in my tracks by the most horrible cold. It was quite freaky. It was a lot of fear. I knew something was not right. I retreated rather rapidly."

He then heared a truck-type vehicle start up from the direction of the sounds and idling. 

A third vehicle then approached from that direction and drove past them very slowly, heading south on Avonside Dr.

When it came close to them the driver turned the lights on. They were put on full beam, blinding them. He could not see inside as the vehicle had tinted windows. 

He guessed it was travelling about 5kmh. 

"It just crept past us. Whoever was in the vehicle was sussing [us] out."

The man's evidence concluded the trial for the day. 

It continues tomorrow, when Manning's clients on the night of her death are expected to give evidence.

'BLOOD-CURDLING SCREAM' HEARD

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

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" on Galbraith Ave.

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

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

MOB PRESENCE ESCALATED BEFORE KILLING

Earlier today the court heard that the Mongrel Mob presence on Manchester St increased dramatically about two months before prostitute Manning died.

In evidence read to the court, one sex worker said there was 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."

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

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

The sex worker said 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. 

They tried to convince her to get in.

She thought 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.

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

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

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

A statement from Kent Gorrie, Manning's partner at the time of her death, has also been 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 was 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 hoped to have a baby.

Manning had also reconnected with her mother.

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

MANNING SPOKE OF DEAD SISTER SHORTLY BEFORE KILLING

Mellory 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 on 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 up 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 High Court that police working on the homicide inquiry obtained footage from 10 CCTV cameras in the area. 

However, the weather blurred the vehicles on the footage, meaning they could only see if they were four-wheel-drives, saloons or a taxis.

Initially, 19 vehicle makes and models were identified as being "of interest" 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 also 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.

PROSECUTION HINGES ON FAWCETT'S CONFESSIONS

The Crown case hinges on Fawcett's confessions to police, which it says shows he was guilty either as joint-principal or as party to the murder. Fawcett's defence is that he made a "false admission" under police pressure.

Opening for the Crown, prosecutor Pip Currie told the jury Manning was strangled, raped, stabbed and bashed at the Aotearoa Mongrel Mob's "pad" in Galbraith Ave, Avonside.

Several people, including Fawcett, were involved in the killing and any of her wounds could have been fatal, Currie said.

Manning had two clients on the night of December 18 - neither of whom were suspects - and was last seen by members of the public on the corner on Manchester and Peterborough streets, her usual spot, about 10.40pm.

Known as "Muckdog" or "Little Muckdog", Fawcett was a prospect for the Christchurch-based Mongrel Mob chapter, which wanted to "take over" Manchester St and tax the prostitutes $20 from each of their jobs.

Prospects, also known as "soldiers", were expected to do various tasks for the gang, which could include making money or putting their hand up to crimes to prevent a patched gang member from being arrested, a police witness told the court.

Fawcett's job was to watch over the street workers on Manchester St. Senior gang members had told him being patched gave you "licence to kill", Currie said.

Prostitutes could be taxed using standover tactics, and failure to pay would result in a beating - usually by a gang prospect or associate rather than by a patched member, Detective Kelvin Holden told the court.

Fawcett gave conflicting accounts when interviewed by police between 2009 and 2012 including describing Manning's murder as a "planned hit" by the Mongrel Mob and claims about Manning "owing money for drugs".

Another mobster had told him that all the working girls had to pay them "rent". Manning was identified while standing on Manchester St as the "girl who owed money". When confronted by an associate, "she said she didn't have the money but would try and get it", Currie said.

When he was arrested in March 2012, Fawcett told police he knew nothing about Manning's death and played no part in it, she said.

Manning was on the methadone programme and the autopsy found methadone and small amounts of cannabis in her body, Currie said.

The Crown will call more than 100 witnesses.

- The Press

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