Closing arguments underway in murder trial

UPDATED 4:59PM Murder accused Turiarangi Tai meant to pull the trigger on the weapon that killed his girlfriend, the Crown said today in its closing argument.

Turiarangi Tai, 22, is on trial in the High Court at Auckland in front of Justice Matthew Muir and a jury, accused of shooting 22-year-old mother-of-two Choyzn Koroheke last April.

Ms Koroheke died from her injuries later that night.

Tai was charged with one count of murder and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm. He pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder and guilty to the firearm charge.

A 25-year-old woman is also appearing alongside Tai on trial. Moheofo Manulevu is charged with being an accessory after the fact of murder, accused of helping Tai evade arrest.

The crown alleges Tai shot Ms Koroheke once in the abdomen with a 12-gauge-double-barrelled shotgun before taking Ms Koroheke’s debit card and fleeing the scene instead of waiting to see if Ms Koroheke was okay.

Crown prosecutor Mark Williams told the jury Tai’s evidence was “littered with lies” and “poorly put together”.

He suggested the amount of pressure required to pull the trigger meant that Tai pulled the trigger deliberately and not due to recoil, nudge or stumble as Tai had previously suggested under cross-examination from the crown.

“Do you accept and admit that you are the one who pulled the trigger?” asked Mr Williams.

“I would accept I pulled the trigger, yes,” said Tai, “but never intentionally.”

“You accept you pulled the trigger?” Mr Williams pressed.

“I can’t remember. I don’t remember pulling the trigger,” said Tai.

Witnesses told the court Ms Koroheke and Tai argued frequently – and that on the day of the shooting the house had been quieter than usual because Tai and Ms Koroheke were not speaking.

The Crown told the court the relationship between Tai and Ms Koroheke was one characterised by violence and abuse at the hands of Tai.

Witnesses spoke of frequently seeing bruises on Ms Koroheke’s body.  In the week leading up to her death, Ms Koroheke had been to hospital after Tai allegedly hit her in the back of the head with a rock.

Tai claimed not to know where Ms Koroheke had gotten the bruises and injuries from, claiming it was an open relationship and that it “wasn’t any of my business”.

Mr Williams said Tai beat Ms Koroheke “black and blue” and did not ask about her bruises because he had caused them – an allegation Tai denied.

Tai sat with his head in his hands in the dock today, as the Crown recalled the events of – and those leading up to – Ms Koroheke’s death.

On the day of the incident, the court heard how the pair argued after Tai asked Ms Koroheke for her debit card so he could fill the car with petrol and Ms Koroheke refused, allegedly telling a flatmate “He hasn’t spoken to me all day, why I should I help him?”

Tai then packed the car with his belongings as he prepared to leave – something that had previously happened after arguments in the past.

The court was told Tai reached the top of the driveway in his car before returning with a gun.

Ms Koroheke, who had gone outside to see why Tai had returned, then came running back inside yelling “he’s got a shotgun”, the court heard.

Ms Koroheke, her brother and her brother’s then girlfriend were hiding in a bedroom when Tai allegedly came in and shot Ms Koroheke in the abdomen at a distance of between 10cm and 50cm.

Tai told the court he didn’t know anything about guns and had shifted the safety catch into the ‘S’ position before entering the room, thinking it meant safety. On a shotgun, the S stands for shoot.  He said he did not know it was loaded.

The Crown asked Tai why he had felt the need to use the gun’s safety catch if he didn’t intend on any trouble in the room, to which Tai responded it was “just a precaution”.

Crown prosecutor Mr Williams reminded the jury defendants are innocent until proven guilty – and to do so, they must find the defendants guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

He told the jury that 2.5kg of pressure was used to fire the shotgun – and a pressure of 1.5 kg is considered safe.

Mr Williams told the jury Tai had undertaken deliberate steps to fire the gun, including releasing the safety catch and the pressure of which he allegedly pulled the trigger.

Closing arguments are expected to continue until Monday afternoon before the jury retires for deliberations.