Witness tells trial jury how he shielded his children from gunman

Gisborne Courthouse. File picture by Rebecca Grunwell

A MAN wept in court yesterday as he told a jury how he stretched out his arms trying to make his body wide enough to shield six children from a gunman who turned up at their home.

Gisborne District Court was closed to the public during the man’s evidence, the first to be heard in a trial of three gang members accused of using a firearm in an attempt to persuade a woman to withdraw a complaint.

The testimony was cut short when the case took a dramatic turn and the accused pleaded guilty to amended Crown charges. Judge Warren Cathcart dismissed the jury.

Vincent Laurence Baker, 33, represented by counsel Leighvi Maynard; James Henderson, 25, whose counsel was Adam Simperingham assisted by Michael Lynch; and Samuel James Vernon Tuari, 28, represented by counsel Alistair Clarke; were initially all charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice, commission of a crime with a firearm and an alternative charge of presenting a firearm.

After the amendment, they each pleaded guilty to the charge of attempting to pervert justice and Henderson pleaded guilty to a reduced Arms Act charge – one that does not carry a three-strikes warning – of committing an offence (punishable by more than three years imprisonment) with a firearm.

The judge remanded them in custody for reports and sentence on April 27.

Before the pleas, the jury heard from prosecutor Steve Manning, who alleged the three men went together in a van on February 26 last year — a Sunday morning — to the first witness’s home in Oak Street. They hoped to find his sister and “heavy” her into dropping a charge against Henderson, Mr Manning said.

Woman not there

But the woman they were looking for was not there.

They mistook another occupant’s car for hers.

In his evidence, the witness said the trio was known to him. Two of them were wearing their gang regalia. Their mood was serious.

Tuari, the first to advance on the property, said to him, “Where’s your sister? I’m looking for her, I’ve got a couple of ‘niggars’ (Black Power gang) out in the van.”

Baker then came on to the property and stood on the lawn beneath a porch, where the witness was standing.

Fearful about the developing situation, the witness said he went inside to arm himself with a baseball bat. By the time he got it, Tuari was already in the lounge but retreated when warned to leave.

He and Baker returned to the van. But Henderson appeared in the driveway soon afterwards, cradling a long-barrelled “big gun” and advancing towards him, the witness said.

Man to take hit

The man dropped his bat, stretched out his arms and prepared to shelter the six children behind him from any shot. He would take the hit himself, the man said.

With the barrell of the gun pointed toward him, Henderson yelled, "Where's your sister? tell her to f***** drop those charges".

Henderson was angry and intimidating.

"I don't even want to imagine it," the witness told the jury.

His fear was evident as he recounted the incident. At times he was unable to speak and wept.

■ Police arrested two men after an incident in the public waiting area at the courthouse yesterday.

“A 32-year-old and a 27-year-old have both been charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice,” said Detective Sergeant Kevin Ford.

“The matter related to the trial.

“We will oppose their bail applications when they appear in court today.

“Police will continue to take a very hard approach to anyone who tries to interfere with the court process and the judiciary in this region have previously made comment about coming down hard on this sort behaviour.”

A MAN wept in court yesterday as he told a jury how he stretched out his arms trying to make his body wide enough to shield six children from a gunman who turned up at their home.

Gisborne District Court was closed to the public during the man’s evidence, the first to be heard in a trial of three gang members accused of using a firearm in an attempt to persuade a woman to withdraw a complaint.

The testimony was cut short when the case took a dramatic turn and the accused pleaded guilty to amended Crown charges. Judge Warren Cathcart dismissed the jury.

Vincent Laurence Baker, 33, represented by counsel Leighvi Maynard; James Henderson, 25, whose counsel was Adam Simperingham assisted by Michael Lynch; and Samuel James Vernon Tuari, 28, represented by counsel Alistair Clarke; were initially all charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice, commission of a crime with a firearm and an alternative charge of presenting a firearm.

After the amendment, they each pleaded guilty to the charge of attempting to pervert justice and Henderson pleaded guilty to a reduced Arms Act charge – one that does not carry a three-strikes warning – of committing an offence (punishable by more than three years imprisonment) with a firearm.

The judge remanded them in custody for reports and sentence on April 27.

Before the pleas, the jury heard from prosecutor Steve Manning, who alleged the three men went together in a van on February 26 last year — a Sunday morning — to the first witness’s home in Oak Street. They hoped to find his sister and “heavy” her into dropping a charge against Henderson, Mr Manning said.

Woman not there

But the woman they were looking for was not there.

They mistook another occupant’s car for hers.

In his evidence, the witness said the trio was known to him. Two of them were wearing their gang regalia. Their mood was serious.

Tuari, the first to advance on the property, said to him, “Where’s your sister? I’m looking for her, I’ve got a couple of ‘niggars’ (Black Power gang) out in the van.”

Baker then came on to the property and stood on the lawn beneath a porch, where the witness was standing.

Fearful about the developing situation, the witness said he went inside to arm himself with a baseball bat. By the time he got it, Tuari was already in the lounge but retreated when warned to leave.

He and Baker returned to the van. But Henderson appeared in the driveway soon afterwards, cradling a long-barrelled “big gun” and advancing towards him, the witness said.

Man to take hit

The man dropped his bat, stretched out his arms and prepared to shelter the six children behind him from any shot. He would take the hit himself, the man said.

With the barrell of the gun pointed toward him, Henderson yelled, "Where's your sister? tell her to f***** drop those charges".

Henderson was angry and intimidating.

"I don't even want to imagine it," the witness told the jury.

His fear was evident as he recounted the incident. At times he was unable to speak and wept.

■ Police arrested two men after an incident in the public waiting area at the courthouse yesterday.

“A 32-year-old and a 27-year-old have both been charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice,” said Detective Sergeant Kevin Ford.

“The matter related to the trial.

“We will oppose their bail applications when they appear in court today.

“Police will continue to take a very hard approach to anyone who tries to interfere with the court process and the judiciary in this region have previously made comment about coming down hard on this sort behaviour.”

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