Auckland lawyer's SUV 'felt like a tackle'

6:47 pm on 22 November 2016

An Auckland lawyer is on trial charged with driving into a furniture-moving man who was helping her estranged husband.

Signage outside the Auckland District Court

Auckland District Court Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The furniture mover said being hit by the reversing SUV was like being tackled.

Thomas McAndrew gave evidence today at the trial of Natalie Sharon Tabb in the Auckland District Court, where Ms Tabb denies a charge of dangerous driving causing injury.

Mr McAndrew said he was helping Ms Tabb's estranged husband move items out of the family home in Albany in June last year when Ms Tabb arrived.

They had reversed the furniture-moving truck up the driveway but Ms Tabb parked her car over the drive to stop them leaving, Mr McAndrew said.

He said at one point she was yelling, and she called the police but they left after refusing to get involved.

After a two-hour "stand-off", Mr McAndrew said he came up with the idea of driving the movers' truck over a small garden in order to get around Ms Tabb.

"The goal was just to get the truck out and continue to the new address, unload, finish the job and go home."

He walked down the driveway to direct the truck and saw Ms Tabb swivel her head and look at him, he said.

Mr McAndrew stood behind Ms Tabb's SUV to ensure the truck didn't hit her vehicle but as the truck started coming down the driveway, she reversed her SUV and crashed into him.

He said Ms Tabb came at him a second time and this time he raised his hand to signal stop, but she hit him again.

"It felt like a tackle," Mr McAndrew said.

Ms Tabb didn't get out of her car and he walked towards the truck for protection, in case she came a third time, he said.

A legal executive who had been at the property taking photos for the record then went down to Ms Tabb's SUV, he said.

"She banged on the window and said: 'Stop. What you're doing is wrong. Stop.'"

Mr McAndrew said Ms Tabb's next move was to speed up the driveway before coming to a stop at the entrance to the house. Ms Tabb's estranged husband and the legal executive had to move.

"They virtually jumped out of the way. If they didn't, she would have hit them."

He said some days later he saw a doctor and had bruising to his hip and a broken finger. He also had to work reduced hours and light duties.

'I was just trying to do my job'

Under cross-examination from Ms Tabb's lawyer, Marie Dyhrberg, Mr McAndrew said he couldn't recall some of the details because it was some time ago, but he clearly remembered being hit.

He agreed it "would've been nice" if Ms Tabb moved her car, but she refused to do so.

Ms Dyhrberg suggested the movers drove the truck down the driveway at Ms Tabb's car in an effort to get her out of the way. "I suggest you hoped to frighten her and for her to move out of the way."

Mr McAndrew replied: "I'd say that's ridiculous."

Ms Dyhrberg asked him if there were five gang members in the car with Ms Tabb. She was then asked by Judge Mary Sharpe to stop that line of questioning. "It's just sensationalist," the judge said.

Ms Dyhrberg suggested to Mr McAndrew that he had wanted to keep his plan secret and avoid being seen by Ms Tabb but the mover denied that was the case.

"I didn't think she cared," Mr McAndrew said. "I was just trying to do my job the best I could and get home safely."

He said he didn't want to upset Ms Tabb anymore and so didn't go and knock on her window.

Under re-examination by Crown prosecutor Karen Chang, Mr McAndrew said the plan was no secret and the truck was noisy when it started up.

The Crown's case

In her opening statement, Ms Chang told jurors Ms Tabb had split up with her husband last year.

Some months after the break, on 3 June, she arrived home to find him removing furniture from the family home with the help of the movers, his lawyer and the legal executive.

The Crown's case is that Ms Tabb parked her grey SUV over the driveway, preventing the truck from leaving. Ms Chang said what followed was a two-hour "stand-off".

Ms Tabb called police who arrived a short time later and spoke to everyone at the address, but did not take any action because it was a civil dispute and nothing illegal was happening.

Eventually the movers came up with the idea to drive the truck over the small garden and around Ms Tabb's car.

"The only casualty were some squashed plants," Ms Chang told the court.

She said one of the movers - Mr McAndrew - stood behind Ms Tabb's SUV to direct the truck around her car.

Ms Tabb was watching all of this take place and reversed quickly into him. She then reversed into him a second time, leaving him with bruising to a hip and a broken finger.

Ms Chang said, instead of getting out of the car, the accused then drove up the driveway where her estranged husband and the legal executive were standing, forcing them to get out of the way.

Ms Chang said a vehicle was a powerful thing and it was important people drove responsibly, despite being angry or stressed.

She said Ms Tabb had a duty to make sure the "coast was clear" before taking off, but failed to do so.

The defence

Ms Dyhrberg, for Ms Tabb, said her client did not dispute she was driving, but the jury would have to consider if her actions fell below a reasonable expectation for drivers.

Her client believed she was in danger of death or serious injury when she reversed her car away from the oncoming truck. She also did not expect someone to be behind her.

The trial, in front of Judge Sharp and a jury, is due to hear evidence from five witnesses and has been set down for three days.