27 Oct 2009

Murder-accused didn't mean to hurt anyone - lawyer

10:15 pm on 27 October 2009

The lawyer for a man accused of murdering a woman by deliberately causing a head-on crash says he did not mean to hurt anyone.

Tony Worrell was twice the legal blood-alcohol limit when he ploughed into newlywed Katie Powles' car on a rural road in Karaka on 3 June last year.

The 50-year-old is facing six charges, including one count each of murder and causing grievous bodily harm, and four counts of intentional damage.

The Crown opened its case at Auckland High Court on Tuesday, telling the jury Mr Worrell's wife had thrown him out of their home and he wanted to end his life.

The Crown says Mr Worrell was very depressed, having only just been released from hospital the morning of the incident after a previous attempt to take his own life.

The court was told as soon as the accused was home he began to drink and made three visits to the local liquor shop in the afternoon. About 5pm, his wife Lynette Worrell came home, realised he was drunk and kicked him out.

The Crown says Mr Worrell later called her from a pay phone saying he was going to find a big semi-trailer. He then drove from West Auckland to rural South Auckland where he began driving on the wrong side of the road and attempted to drive into several cars.

The court was told he narrowly missed four cars before hitting Brett Robinson and his two young children, causing their car to flip. Mr Robinson suffered a broken pelvis, leg and arm.

Seconds later, Mr Worrell crashed head-on into Ms Powles' vehicle. The 26-year-old had recently been married and was returning home from a new job. Her car spun out and landed in a ditch. She suffered massive internal injuries and died in hospital a few hours later.

Defence opens case

In opening statements, defence lawyer Matthew Goodwin told the court he accepted parts of the Crown's case - that his client was drunk and that he crashed into two cars.

However, Mr Goodwin said Mr Worrell did not intend to kill himself, Ms Powles or Mr Robinson.

Mr Goodwin also indicated he thought the charge of causing grievous bodily harm in regards to Mr Robinson was too harsh - questioning if his injuries where to that level.

During the defence's opening, Mr Worrell often lay down in the dock and cried audibly.

Wife gives evidence

The jury was read evidence from Crown witness Lynette Worrell, who now lives overseas. In it, Mrs Worrell said she had been married to the accused for 20 years and he had been an alcoholic for much of the time.

She says when Mr Worrell told her he was looking for a big semi-trailer she thought the remark was flippant, and if he really wanted to end his life he simply would have taken an overdose of insulin prescribed for his Type 1 diabetes.

About 40 witnesses are to be called over the next three weeks, including Mr Robinson and Ms Powles' husband.