24 Nov 2009

Driver in fatal pursuit looked 'like a man possessed'

6:32 pm on 24 November 2009

A man being pursued on Auckland's north-western motorway looked "like a man possessed," according to one of the police officers involved in the chase.

The officer, Constable Steve Vile, has been testifying at an inquest into the death earlier this year of 17-year-old Halatau Naitoko.

Mr Naitoko was accidentally killed in crossfire between the police and Stephen McDonald, the man being pursued, when the latter's car came to a halt on the motorway.

The Armed Offenders Squad was trying to apprehend McDonald, who was on a drug-fuelled rampage through West Auckland.

Constable Vile, who said he did not know if squad officers had a clear view of McDonald, told the inquest that at one point he looked directly into his eyes.

"When he drove past, there was no way he was going to stop - and he was going very fast. And the look on his face: I would say he looked like a man possessed."

Terrified he would get into her car

A woman caught up in the pursuit broke down as she told the inquest about her terror that day.

Bianca Bush, a 31-year-old event manager, was driving into the city when she noticed a lot of police cars on the motorway and saw McDonald fire a shot from a gun.

Ms Bush says he looked directly at her, and his eyes were crazy and desperate - it left her terrified that he was going to get into her car.

A prayer to open proceedings

The hearing at the Coroner's Court in Auckland began on Tuesday morning with a prayer for Halatau Naitoko after a request by family members.

Many family members wore black T-shirts with the teenager's picture on it, and a large photo of him was placed at the front of the room by the family.

Nine witnesses are expected to be called for the inquest, though the appearance of two officers has been delayed until at least the New Year as they appeal against a ruling on how their evidence can be heard.

The police say no one will be charged directly with Mr Naitoko's death. McDonald was sentenced in September to 13 years' in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of eight years, mainly for firearms offences.