Murder trial jury retire to consider verdict

ACCUSED: Mauha Huatahi Fawcett appears in the Christchurch High Court. He denies murdering Ngatai "Mellory" Manning.
ACCUSED: Mauha Huatahi Fawcett appears in the Christchurch High Court. He denies murdering Ngatai "Mellory" Manning.

A jury has been told to put sympathy, prejudice and emotion aside when it decides if a Mongrel Mob prospect is guilty of murdering sex worker Mellory Manning.

In the High Court in Christchurch, Mauha Huatahi Fawcett, 26, is accused of murdering Manning, 27, on or about December 18, 2008.

The Crown says Manning was picked up by Mongrel Mob associates and taken to a gang pad on Galbriath Ave, Avonside, where she was raped, strangled, bashed - including with weapons - and stabbed by a group including Fawcett, before her body was dumped in the Avon River.

Ngatai "Mellory" Manning.
Ngatai "Mellory" Manning.

Justice David Gendall told the jury they had three verdict options: guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter or they could acquit Fawcett.

Justice Gendall said there were two possibilities for a guilty verdict based on "party liability":

- If the jury found Fawcett assisted or encouraged the main offenders, knowing they were acting with murderous intent; or,

- If they found Fawcett was part of a "common intention or plan" to cause serious violence to Manning, that it was a "known probable consequence" that the violence would kill her, and that he helped carry it out.

Fawcett could be found guilty of manslaughter if they found either of the above were true, but he had no murderous intent or knowledge the beating was likely to kill her.

Summing up the Crown case, the judge said the Crown contended Fawcett knew there was a "real or substantial risk" that one of the major players would murder Manning that night.

Given the "brutal and sustained" attack Manning suffered there could be "no doubt" this was murder. Pathologist Martin Sage found any of her four separate sets of injuries could have killed her.

The Crown said that although Fawcett gave police varying accounts of what happened that night, and in his last interview endeavoured to say he had lied and denied any involvement, there was "a reasonably consistent theme", Justice Gendall said.

This included:

- That part of his job as a prospect was to mind prostitutes on Manchester St.

- That at a meeting earlier that night, which Fawcett attended, a plan was formed to pick Manning up from the street, take her to pad and make a "hit" on her as she owed money for drugs to a patched Mongrel Mob member.

- Fawcett was to be the lookout, or possibly carry out the hit.

- Fawcett arrived at pad, went into a shed, turned up the music and saw Manning being raped and attacked.

- Fawcett saw two mobsters arrive. Weapons, a tarpaulin and bags were brought along.

- That it was a "frenzied attack"

- That he was a lookout at some stage and watched one mobster "finish her off" with a hatchet.

In one suspect interview with police, Fawcett said that, with eyes closed, he struck her once in the head with a hooked pole and then joined others barking and shouting Sieg Heil.

He helped clean up and disposed of evidence including Manning's boots, which were never found. Fawcett again acted as a lookout as another Mobster disposed her body in the river.

In short, "the hit was done", the Crown said.

Fawcett was worried about possible retribution from the Mongrel Mob and disappeared.

Mr Q, a former Mongrel Mob member, testified that Fawcett told him of being forced to take part in the attack and of stabbing Manning.

Another witness, Miss C, said Fawcett went to her house in "agitated state" and covered in blood. Had a shower and tried to clean himself up. He later told her he had "done something bad" and "needed to leave town".

Justice Gendall said the defence did not believe the Crown has proved murder beyond reasonable doubt.

The defence position given by Fawcett was that he was not at the pad, had nothing to do with Manning's death, did not help dispose of her body, nor was a lookout, the judge said.

Suspect interviews with police saying otherwise were "all lies".

The evidence of Miss C and Mr Q were also lies.

Assisting counsel Craig Ruane had put forward other possible scenarios which could raise "reasonable doubt" in the jury's minds, Justice Gendall said.

These included the possibilities Fawcett was only supposed to be lookout on Manchester St for a beating; he may not have known she was to be killed or that her death was a "probable result" of what happened; or that he only cleaned up afterwards.

If Fawcett arrived at the pad after the assault, his assistance was "after the event".

His statements were made in suspect interviews while he was at risk of retribution from the Mongrel Mob because he made a break from the gang. He told police that he felt he would be "safer in jail in segregation" than "on the outside".

The defence also suggested there was "not time" to do what the Crown said occurred, that is, for Manning to be picked up about 10.40pm, driven six minutes to the pad, be killed then have her body dumped in the river about 11pm.

At 11.09pm, a cellphone attributed to Fawcett was polling through a Linwood cell tower, not those near Galbraith Ave. No weapons had been found.

Justice Gendall instructed the jury to identify the evidence they believed they could rely on and "apply your common sense".

"This is not a case about whether or not the defendant may or may not be a nice guy," he said.

The jury retired to consider their verdict at 12.35pm.

The Press