30 Oct 2013

Witness says he saw accused strangle woman

8:40 pm on 30 October 2013

The Crown's star witness in the Rae Portman murder trial has described watching a man strangle the Hamilton woman with a strop.

The pregnant 33-year-old went missing in June 2012 and her body was found at a South Auckland farm in September that year.

Paraire Te Awa is on trial at the High Court in Auckland and denies charges of kidnapping and murdering Ms Portman before dumping her body down a pit on the farm.

Dean Addison is also accused of kidnapping and faces drugs charges. He denies the charges.

The Crown says Rae Portman was kidnapped and murdered after a drug deal went sour.

Lee Rigby is serving a prison sentence for kidnapping Ms Portman and used to work for Mr Addison in his workshop.

On Wednesday, he told the court that he feared for his life and so helped Mr Te Awa kidnap her.

Rigby said he drove Ms Portman's car while she was bound and gagged in the boot to an industrial site in Hamilton. He said he "freaked out" when he saw Mr Te Awa tie the strop around her neck and twist it over and over again. Moments later, Ms Portman was dead.

Rigby said he also used to deliver drugs and money for Mr Addison and that the workshop was just a front.

Earlier, Dean Addison's lawyer Mark Ryan told the court that Mr Addison and his wife were good friends with Rae Portman and tried to help police find her.

Mr Ryan said his client was arrested only after evidence from Rigby, who was given a significantly reduced sentence.

Rae Portman's mother also gave evidence on Wednesday, saying Mr Addison did not respond when she went to hug him at her daughter's funeral.

Rebecca Norton told the court Mr Addison was a pallbearer and says he stonewalled her and did not react.