Murder-accused claims confession 'coached'
A man accused of murdering Mellory Manning has told a court that police officers "coached" him into telling them how the sex worker was killed, by offering him protection, a financial reward and to have his bulldog facial tattoo removed.
Mauha Huatahi Fawcett, 26, said the two officers who made the offers also told him Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald - the first officer to interview Fawcett as a murder suspect - was someone he could trust.
However, Fawcett then implicated himself by telling Fitzgerald he had hit Manning with a weapon, the court heard.
Fawcett was first interviewed by police in Nelson in January 2009 and denied all knowledge of Manning's killing.
Fitzgerald interviewed him as a suspect on August 10, 2009 in Rotorua.
In the later interview, played to the court today, Fawcett gave a detailed account of how three mobsters attacked Manning at the Mongrel Mob pad in Avonside on the night of December 18, 2008.
Fawcett told Fitzgerald that he was instructed to hit Manning with a pole during the "blood bath" attack, and he "closed his eyes and hit her".
Fawcett spoke of the mobsters wanting him to "be involved" in her death and that he was "freaking out" afterwards.
In his first true cross-examination of the trial, Fawcett put it to Fitzgerald that two officers had "softened me up" before the crucial interview.
One of the officers had "coached me to say what you wanted me to say," Fawcett said to Fitzgerald.
"He offered me the reward and protection from the Mongrel Mob to nark on the Mongrel Mob, and when it wasn't all matching up, you'se (sic) made me implicate myself into this murder which I did not do."
The officers told him that Fitzgerald was "a good bloke" who "bought big bottles of coke" and that Fawcett could trust him, Fawcett said.
He asked that those interviews also be played to the court, which may now be arranged.
Fitzgerald reminded Fawcett that he made it clear during his interview that Fawcett was being spoken to "under caution", rather than simply as a source.
At this point, assisting counsel Craig Ruane stepped in.
In the thrilling exchange that ensued, Fitzgerald said he was not aware of the various offers made to Fawcett, but conceded those possibilities "may have been thrown up".
However, Fitzgerald said even had those offers been made, they needed to be seen in the context of that phase of the investigation.
Furthermore, just because someone was being interviewed as a "source" did not mean it was "a free for all to say what you like", he said.
"Any human source who admits to crime or serious crime to any handler will be treated the same as anybody else who admits it," Fizgerald said.
Fawcett was spoken to by other officers three times between January and August 2009 as a "potential human source", Ruane said.
The latest of which was on July 28, 2009, when two officers told Fawcett they were going to introduce him to their "big boss Tom".
"You were described that you were a good bloke, that he could trust you," Ruane said.
Fitzgerald replied, "That's good to hear".
Said Ruane, "[They said] that you were the sort of bloke who bought big bottles of coke".
Fitzgerald replied, "If that's in the transcript".
Ruane apologised that it was, joking it was "quite a legacy in the police force".
Fitzgerald said it was important to establish trust so that people talked to police and told the truth.
Fitzgerald said the officers who interviewed Fawcett as a possible source "had no idea" Fitzgerald would later interview him as a suspect.
The tapes showed that in his confession interview on August 10, Fawcett "clearly understood he was being interviewed under caution", Fitzgerald said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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