Man accused of murdering Lance John Murphy goes on trial
A father of three was murdered on a remote hilltop with a bag over his head and his hands shackled, the Crown alleges.
The man accused of killing Lance John Murphy, 56, was his friend of 30 years.
Michael Joseph Waipouri, also known as Michael Davies, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and murdering his long-time friend.
His trial in the High Court at Auckland began on Tuesday.
His co-accused Steven Gunbie has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, and assisting to help Waipouri evade arrest.
Crown prosecutor Gareth Kayes told jurors that Murphy was a recently widowed man who lived in Waiuku, south of Auckland, around the corner from Waipouri.
The pair was close, and Waipouri was the godfather of one of Murphy’s three children.
In November 2015 the pair was socialising at Waipouri’s home when they had an argument.
It wasn’t clear what the dispute was about, Kayes told jurors, but Murphy formed the opinion that Waipouri wanted to kill him, and he texted one of his children so.
Murphy’s daughter thought her father’s claim was “reasonably crazy”, Kayes said.
On November 21, 2015, Murphy had plans to attend a pain clinic at a hospital, because of chronic pain he suffered in his arms.
Instead he and Waipouri travelled to Warkworth, in north Auckland, after Murphy visited his friend at home with a box of beer.
That evening the pair stayed at Gunbie’s home, the Crown alleges.
There, Waipouri and Murphy were said to have had another argument, this time over a joke Murphy had made about Waipouri’s pig dog not being up to the task of hunting.
In response, Waipouri hit him with a baseball bat.
Early the next morning Waipouri went into Murphy’s room and restrained his hands with hand-cuffs, and put a bag over his head, the Crown alleges.
Murphy was said to have been put into the boot of his own car and taken to the Puhoi home of an associate of Gunbie’s, who has name suppression.
En route, Murphy tried to escape from the car, Kayes said.
The associate’s property was extremely remote, Kayes said, and at the top of the hill they pulled Murphy from the car.
Later, Waipouri admitted to police that he had cracked the back of Murphy’s skull with a baseball bat, before striking him on the back of the head with a branch.
The impact had caved-in the back of Murphy’s head.
“Mr Waipouri later told police that he saw all of the life leave Mr Murphy,” Kayes said.
Waipouri is alleged to have told police: “I saw the body deflate, sort of thing. Yeah, nah, sort of like, how do I put it? I knew he was dead mate. I just knew, mate.
“I used to work in a meat processing plant. I used to put animals down with a bar, and I knew when an animal was dead.”
Waipouri and Gunbie are alleged to have left Murphy’s body on the top of the hill.
Kayes alleged that days later Gunbie returned with the friend whose property Murphy’s body lay on, and wrapped him in tarpaulin, before leaving Murphy’s body in a ditch.
Just days after the alleged murder Kayes said Waipouri texted one of Murphy’s children to tell him he had killed his father.
James Murphy didn’t inform the police, who by now had put out a nationwide missing person’s alert on Murphy, after he failed to show up at the pain management clinic.
Gunbie’s friend later approached police and told them what he knew, before leading police to Murphy’s body.
He has been granted immunity from prosecution and will be giving evidence.
In an interview with police, Waipouri allegedly admitted the crime, explaining that he was a wood cutter by trade.
“As I says, I swing an axe bro. I’m a f—- axe man. I cut f—— wood and I know how to swing,” Waipouri was said to have told police.
“I strike hard, and I strike for keeps. I whacked him with a bat and the bat didn’t do the damage… I put three fast, solid hits, as hard as I could, and he just went limp and stopped breathing.”
Kayes said in his interview with police, which would be later played to the jury, that Waipouri had re-enacted the alleged murder with a water bottle.
“Crack, crack, crack, is the way he described it,” Kayes said.
Waipouri allegedly told police: “There was no way I was leaving this vicinity with this man not dead.. there was no way I was letting that c— live.”
Kayes said Waipouri had given a variety of reasons he had killed Murphy, including that he was protecting himself and his children, and that Murphy “had a go at him”.
“You won’t get to the bottom of why Mr Waipouri did this,” Kayes said.
“Frankly, none of those reasons provide Mr Waipouri with an excuse.”
In a brief opening address, Waipouri’s lawyer John Munro said his client had acted in self defence.
Gunbie’s lawyer, Adam Couchman, said jurors should keep an open mind.
He said at issue would be the motives of the Crown’s star witness – Gunbie’s associate who was granted immunity from prosecution in return for giving evidence against the pair.
The trial, before Justice Anne Hinton, is expected to last four weeks.
More than 40 witnesses will be called.
Murder accessory accused: ‘Don’t be stupid I’m not a murderer’
Murder accessory accused Steven Gunbie allegedly told associates he wasn’t a murderer, after they expressed concerns about the plight of Lance John Murphy.
A woman, whose name is suppressed, told the High Court at Auckland that she and her fiance were “stressed out of their minds” after they realised that a dead body lay on their property.
Gunbie has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and being an accessory to the alleged murder of Murphy, whose body was found in rural Wellsford, north of Auckland, in December 2015.
Murphy’s long-time friend Michael Joseph Waipouri stands accused of kidnapping and murder, but has pleaded self defence.
The Crown alleges that Waipouri, Murphy’s friend of 30 years, “lured” Murphy to Puhoi before bludgeoning him with a baseball bat and a tree branch.
In the trial, the Crown has alleged Murphy was killed on a remote Puhoi property belonging to Gunbie’s associate and the associate’s fiancee.
The pair gave evidence on Friday, with the man saying he wanted the body off his property, and his fiancee saying they were panicked and frightened when they realised what had happened.
She told the court she and her partner and two other friends had been using drugs including heroine, methamphetamine, GBL, and methadone, when Gunbie allegedly showed up at their home with Waipouri.
She said her partner had a short conversation with Gunbie and returned to her “angry”.
“He came inside and he was pretty upset because he told me that they had brought this man, who I didn’t know, to our property and he had been hit in the head with an aluminium baseball bat somewhere at another place and then brought to our place,” she said.
Gunbie later warned them not to go to the top of the hill on the other side of the property, but her fiance and their friend immediately went and discovered Murphy, allegedly tied to a tree with a bag over his head, and blood over him.
The friend reported back to her that Murphy appeared to be alive but “gurgling”.
“We were in a state of panic because we didn’t know what to do,” she said.
“I wish we had called an ambulance. That’s what we should have done.”
She said Gunbie returned to their property later with his girlfriend and she said after concern was expressed for Murphy, Gunbie replied: “Don’t be stupid, I’m not a murderer.”
Gunbie’s lawyer Adam Couchman questioned why she hadn’t put that in her statement.
The woman said she and her fiance were so scared that they left the property for the night and the following day, allegedly after receiving a phone call from Gunbie, they realised Murphy was still on the property- and he was dead.
“We thought it was all over and (then Gunbie) admitted had had not taken Lance with him. He had left him there.”
Her fiance demanded Gunbie remove the body from their property, she said.
“We were out of our minds with stress.”
The Crown’s case is that her fiance did eventually return with Gunbie to help move the body by towing it out of a ditch it had rolled into with one of their cars.
The body was then allegedly driven to Wellsford and left in a ditch.
Later the man admitted his role and took police to where Murphy lay.
He has been granted immunity from prosecution and granted name suppression.
GUNBIE ‘PROFESSIONAL BODY MOVER’
Earlier a war of words erupted between that man and Gunbie’s lawyer Adam Couchman, with the witness accusing Couchman of “talking s…”.
The man admitted he helped move Murphy’s body from his property, after allegedly being told by Gunbie that unless he helped, Murphy’s body would stay on his property.
He gave evidence that on the weekend of November 22, 2015, he was at home with his partner and two friends taking GBL, methamphetamine, and cocaine, when Gunbie and another man – said to be Waipouri – arrived.
Waipouri and Gunbie allegedly said they were taking a friend to the top of the hill because he was high on GBL.
The man told the court that half an hour later Gunbie returned and warned him: “Don’t go to the top of the hill.”
The man gave evidence that he immediately went to the top of the hill and saw a man “hog tied” to a tree.
He believed the man was alive.
He left the body there and said he quickly pursued Gunbie.
“To grab him to bring him back . . . to sort his s… out.”
He claimed Gunbie returned to the property the following day, “like a professional body mover”, armed with a tarpaulin and supplies to move Murphy’s body.
He and Gunbie allegedly attached Murphy’s body to the the back of a car and pulled it out of a ditch, where it had been rolled down the hill.
Gunbie’s lawyer, Adam Couchman, put to the witness that it was he who wanted to move the body, and that Gunbie wanted to leave it there.
“Did he say to you, ‘leave the body where it is, if we don’t touch it, then we’ve got nothing to worry about’ . . . it was you who said ‘no, I want this body off the property’.”
The man agreed he wanted the body off his property and admitted he was involved in moving it.
“It was a very big body. The man was huge. There was no way Steve could have moved it himself.”
Couchman queried why the man hadn’t called the police, and suggested the man had “grievances” with Gunbie, motivating his evidence against him.
“The grievance with Mr Gunbie was he turned up at my house, with people I don’t know, and a guy ended up dead and the body is still on my property,” the man replied.
“I’ve no idea why they brought it to my house. This whole thing has nothing to do with me.”
During the cross-examination, Justice Anne Hinton called for the jury to leave after the witness became agitated.
“You are talking s…,” the man said to Couchman during the cross-examination.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about. You weren’t there.”
He asked Couchman to repeat his questions several times, telling him: “I’ve tuned out because I don’t like you.”
Kidnap accused didn’t know victim: lawyer
When he discovered the powerful figure of his co-accused standing over a prone and bashed man, a scared Steve Gunbie had no option but to help hide the dead man’s body, his lawyer says.
Gunbie, 38, is standing trial for helping to kidnap and then hide Lance John Murphy’s body after he was killed on a hilltop in Puhoi in November 2015.
His co-accused, 52-year-old Michael Joseph Davies, also known as Michael Waipouri, is accused of kidnapping, cuffing and tying a hood over the head of his long time friend, Mr Murphy, before bashing him to death.
On Friday, Gunbie told the High Court at Auckland, he led Davies by car to the hill on the Puhoi property of a friend, believing Davies needed to get to a high point for phone reception.
But when Davies spent a long time up the hill, Gunbie followed to check what was happening and came upon Davies standing over Mr Murphy’s body and holding a wooden baseball bat with blood “everywhere” on the ground.
Davies immediately began “barking” instructions.
“[It] seemed like everybody was yelling at me,” Gunbie said.
Davies threw Mr Murphy’s body into the back of Gunbie’s four-wheel-drive and they drove further up the hill where Davies dumped the body, he said.
Gunbie later moved the body on at least two more occasions, the Crown alleged.
But with Davies having earlier threatened the Crown’s prosecutor in the courtroom, Gunbie’s lawyer Adam Couchman said to the jury that they may already think Davies is dangerous when he is angry.
So it was reasonable to think Gunbie would only have acted in ways to get away from Davies after being shocked to arrive and see him standing over a dead body, Mr Couchman said.
He also said Gunbie never participated in the kidnap of Mr Murphy.
He said Gunbie was not friends with Davies and did not know Mr Murphy.
Instead, Davies was an ex-partner of Gunbie’s sister, and it was in her home that Davies first assaulted Mr Murphy in front of a shocked Gunbie, Mr Couchman said.
Davies earlier in the trial said he killed Mr Murphy because he feared for his life.
He said Mr Murphy had boasted he was a hit man, who had killed 10 people, including a work colleague from a steel factory called Jim Donnelly, who went missing in 2004.
He also believed Mr Murphy was possessed by evil demons.
“I realised I had a loose cannon out on the street with a dark hate for me and the element of surprise on me,” Davies said in reference to Mr Murphy.
The trial continues.