29 Apr 2013

Hallett admitted service station killing - witnesses

10:24 pm on 29 April 2013

Witnesses at the trial of a 72-year-old accused of killing a service station attendant in 1979 have told a court he admitted the crime.

Rodney Tahu, who was 31, was shot in the head and shoulder early on 16 August 1979 in the central North Island town of Turangi and died later in hospital.

Menzies Hallett is accused of killing Mr Tahu and is on trial at the Rotorua High Court.

At the beginning of the trial, the defence said Mr Hallett admits that he caused Rodney Tahu's death and the jury must decide if it was murder or manslaughter.

On Monday, Menzies Hallet's former wife, Susan Sharpe, told the jury the accused appeared calm and normal when he told her what he had done.

Mr Sharpe said Mr Hallett visited her in Wellington early on 16 August 1979, spoke of a flashpoint of anger. She said the accused, from whom she was estranged at the time, told her he called a service station attendant "a black bastard" before shooting him.

Ms Sharpe said she was told that when the man fell over, Mr Hallett stood over him and shot him in the head.

When questioned by defence lawyer Paul Mabey, QC, Ms Sharpe said the sum total of Mr Hallett's emotion at the time of his admission to her were a few little tears and a shudder.

She said they turned the radio on to see if the shooting had happened or whether it was a dream. Ms Sharpe said Mr Hallett commented that he was amazed at how long it took for the body to be found.

The Crown says a letter written by Ms Sharpe a couple of days before the shooting telling Mr Hallett their daughter would not be living with him in Taupo was the catalyst for the killing.

A former flatmate of Menzies Hallett's also gave evidence, saying Menzies Hallett told him he was responsible for a man's death.

Warwick Nunns said while flatting with the accused in 1985-86, Mr Hallett gave him a brief account of what had happened at the service station and said a case could not be brought against him for lack of evidence.

Mr Nunns said Mr Hallett appeared very remorseful at the end of his narration.

Also giving evidence was a former partner of Mr Hallett's, who said he told her in 1987 that he had been involved in a murder.

Earlier, Crown lawyer Amanda Gordon read out admitted evidence to the jury regarding the movements of Mr Hallett on the day after the shooting.

During a stand-off on the Napier highway south-east of Taupo that lasted several hours, police asked Mr Hallett to leave his vehicle.

According to the evidence, when they approached the car Mr Hallett shot himself in the right upper chest and arm area.

The Crown concluded its case on Monday. It is not known if the defence will call any witnesses.