Quarry assault accused claims mistaken identity

6:00 pm on 13 February 2018

The man accused of abducting a woman off an Auckland city street and sexually assaulting her at a quarry has been described as generally law abiding citizen - but with a dark side.

Entrance to the High Court in Auckland

Colin Jack Mitchell is on trial at the High Court in Auckland. Photo: justice.govt.nz

Colin Jack Mitchell is on trial at the High Court in Auckland, accused of abducting a woman off Great North Road in the early hours of a morning last February and driving her 25 kilometres to a quarry outside of town, where he beat and tried to sexually violate her.

The Onehunga truck driver has denied charges of kidnapping, causing grievous bodily harm and assaulting a woman with intent to sexually violate her.

His lawyer said the case was one of mistaken identity.

In her opening address to the jury, Crown prosecutor Kirsten Lummis said the victim attended the Gay Pride event in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby with friends in February 2016.

The 23-year-old and her friends had drunk at pubs and bars before heading to Kangahape Rd where a bouncer denied her entry because she was too drunk.

On her way home, the Crown said she was approached by Mr Mitchell in his silver Ford Mondeo.

"The Crown can't tell you whether she got in because there was a friendly offer of a ride home, whether she had stopped and was slumped on the footpath being sick and there was an offer of assistance, [or] whether she was pulled into the car."

Ms Lummis said Mr Mitchell drove the woman to a quarry, 25 kilometres north of Auckland, near Riverhead.

The woman's memory was hazy but she did have some recollection of what happened.

"And what she recalls is a man standing over her ... with a white mask on, standing over her, holding some sort of a bat. She describes it as being wider at one end and narrower at the other - a softball bat or a baseball bat."

She was hit a number of times around the head and recalled waking up, feeling blood at her temple. She also recalled the masked man issuing orders.

"She refused and tried to talk him out of it, saying something along the lines of: 'You don't have to be this person.'"

The man hit her again about the head.

"And here she has a further blank spot in her memory. Her next memory is scrambling over the gravel yard, on the phone to 111."

At the time the woman did not know where she was or the whereabouts of her attacker. It took her an hour to get to a nearby road and tell police her location.

Police had a hard time finding the crime scene but eventually made it there, thanks to the work of Constable Kelvin Meek, who drove out to the area at the end of his shift and found shoes, gloves and a phone.

The gloves returned a DNA result.

Meanwhile investigators were trawling through owners of Silver Ford Mondeos. They also had CCTV footage from a nearby sawmill that appeared to show the Mondeo they were looking for had a disability sticker on the front windscreen.

That narrowed the field.

Ms Lummis said when the police searched Mr Mitchell's Onehunga home, they took a DNA sample from his toothbrush. It was a strong match to the gloves.

But Mr Mitchell's lawyer Mark Ryan said neither his client nor his car was involved.

He also said just because Mr Mitchell had been charged, did not mean he was guilty.

"Some of you may think that, just because the police have charged Mr Mitchell with these offences, that he must be guilty - that is flawed thinking.

"The police have got it wrong in the past, the police, the defence say, have got it wrong on this occasion, and the police will get it wrong in the future."

The trial before Justice Fitzgerald and a jury is due to hear evidence from 58 witnesses over three weeks.