7 Nov 2016

Dead man was a target over 'narking', jury told

7:44 pm on 7 November 2016

A man whose body was found dumped outside a group of flats in Palmerston North was paranoid and behaved abnormally the night he died, a jury has been told.

18072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Wellington High Court.

Hemi Te Poono is on trial at the High Court in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Hemi Te Poono, 32, is on trial in the High Court in Wellington, accused of murdering 26-year-old Samuel Culling in what the Crown describes as a cowardly fashion, with a shot to the head from behind.

Crown prosecutor Deborah Davies told the court Mr Culling and Mr Te Poono had known each other for no more than one day.

She said the defendant had only arrived in Palmerston North a couple of days before the murder and on the night of 4 August 2015 he drove up and down a street in suburban Highbury before going to several houses asking for drugs.

"At number 26, a family had gathered to remember their dad who'd died a year earlier. He went in and said he 'wanted stuff'. They presumed he meant drugs and said no, it was a family home, and then he came back and asked for crack."

Ms Davies said Mr Te Poono also asked for weed at another house, which demonstrated he had a lack of connections in Palmerston North, but soon after met Mr Culling, who was a drug user.

She said acquaintances of Mr Culling referred to him behaving in a very paranoid and abnormal way the night he died.

"He made friends turn off lights, crawled around the floor and thought the police were watching him and that drones were [spying on] him. That may have been through drug use, but [Mr Culling] had no reason to be paranoid as no one was after him."

Ms Davies said a significant amount of Mr Cullings' blood was found in Mr Te Poono's Mercedes and was exposed by luminol testing.

She said he must have been sitting in the front passenger's seat at the time of the killing, as a considerable amount of blood had flowed down its left side.

"Through the underside of the seat, [its] framing and down the back of the seat cushion. It had flowed down the left side of the centre console too. The carpet beneath the front passenger's seat was saturated with blood."

However, defence lawyer Steve Winter said the Crown case was well short of reaching the standard of guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

He said few of the jurors would ever have travelled to the western suburbs of Palmerston North at night, but the case would illuminate the subculture there, which included drug-taking, drinking, and where the colour of one's clothing might take on particular significance.

Mr Winter said the height of what should not be done in that kind of subculture was to cooperate with police, in what was known as 'narking'.

"That concept of narking ... will take on particular importance in this trial because you will hear repeatedly witnesses referring to [Mr Culling] being concerned at people either narking on him or worse still, you might think, thinking that he was a nark."

Mr Winter said that made the dead man a target for a number of people.

He said there was no suggestion of any motive Mr Te Poono had to kill Mr Culling and that lack of motive would be critical.

A jury of five men and seven women has been chosen to hear the case, which is expected to run for three weeks.