3 Aug 2015

A tale of two west Auckland parties

6:39 pm on 3 August 2015

The trial of the man accused of murdering Connor Morris is the tale of two west Auckland parties.

Connor Morris and partner Millie Elder-Holmes.

Connor Morris - pictured with partner Millie Elder-Holmes Photo: Facebook

One, for a 21st birthday, involved drinking - and the Crown says it had started to get aggressive when some people, including Michael Thrift Murray, left and began drinking near the road.

The other was a housewarming party for Mr Morris' sister, a few houses down the road.

Crown prosecutor David Johnstone said, like any west Auckland party, the housewarming had plenty of alcohol, some music and good times.

But things got ugly when three of the party members left to go to the shops and get more pineapple juice.

He said a fight between the two groups was about to start when Mr Murray armed himself.

When Mr Johnstone held up the wooden-handled weapon, there were audible gasps from the public gallery and Mr Morris' mother had to leave.

"This weapon is a sickle. He swung this weapon with some force at the head of another man, a man by the name of Connor Morris, point first," Mr Johnstone said.

"The point and then the blade of the sickle entered the side of Mr Morris head, just behind the ear."

But Mr Murray's lawyer, Marie Dyhrberg QC, said her client was acting in the defence of his younger brother.

She said Mr Murray called out for Mr Morris to stop beating his younger brother but Mr Morris was not listening.

"He swung the sickle with no real thought of what he was doing. At the time, he was just wanting to do something to stop what he saw, what he perceived, to be an attack on his little brother."

The fight, which happened exactly a year ago, started when the members of the Morris party headed for the shops. One of the men in Mr Murray's group kicked out at the Morris group, a move described by Mr Johnstone as a "poor decision"

He said one of the men in the Morris group returned to the Morris party to raise the alarm and Mr Morris was one of the men who responded.

But Mr Johnstone said Mr Morris was hit in the head before the fight even began.

Mr Johnstone said Mr Morris' partner, Millie Elder-Holmes, screamed when she saw Mr Morris crumple and hit the ground and she was one of the people who first attended.

Fights broke out later on but Mr Johnstone said it was important to note that they all happened after Mr Morris was hit.

Gang issue addressed in court

The gang issue was also addressed in court, first by Justice Wylie in his opening comments to the jury and later in more detail by Mr Johnstone.

Mr Johnstone said Mr Morris' family were connected to the gang known as the Head Hunters.

He said the Head Hunters were real people and, like everyone, they have their human frailties and qualities.

He told the jurors that they might not agree with the Head Hunters' way of life but they had to put it to one side.

Mr Johnstone said they might think the gang connection was a factor when assessing the level of threat Mr Murray thought he was confronting.

But the prosecutor reminded them that when Mr Morris was struck in the head by Mr Murray, the latter was the only one with a weapon.

The Crown is due to call evidence from 45 witnesses including Ms Elder-Holmes, who is the daughter of the late broadcaster Sir Paul Holmes.

The trial is set down for four weeks.