The cousin of one of the men accused of murdering Phillip Cottrell says he lied to police when he gave them incriminating evidence about his family member.
A teary-eyed Bryce Stepien gave evidence at the trial of his cousin Manuel Robinson, 18, and friend Nicho Waipuka, 20, who are charged with murdering Phillip Cottrell in December last year.
Mr Stepien initially told police that Robinson had told him about kicking and stomping on Mr Cottrell’s head “six or seven times” and stealing his wallet.
“Nicho said he had punched the guy in the head which had knocked him down then Manuel had came along and gave him a few stomps and kicks to the head,” he said in the statement from last year.
However, when he gave evidence in court today, Mr Stepien says it was all a lie and his cousin didn’t touch Mr Cottrell.
“That was a lie, Manuel did not kick the guy in the head [...] I lied. I lied when I made that statement,” he told the court.
Mr Stepien raised his voice and was visibly upset in the witness box when he made the admission.
He was meant to appear in court yesterday but failed to turn up, prompting Justice Forrest Millar to issue a warrant for his arrest, along with warrants for three others.
‘F**k, I might go to jail’
Leon Flutey-Tuheke, the cousin and flatmate of Robinson and a friend of Waipuka, told the court how Robinson was scared he’d go to jail for the crime his co-accused had allegedly committed.
Mr Flutey-Tuheke was with Robinson the afternoon after the alleged murder and claims Robinson told him he had “done someone over” and stolen their wallet.
“He said he’d smashed this fella over and stolen his wallet [...] They rolled someone over, him and Nicho,” the court heard.
Mr Flutey-Tuheke says one of Mr Cottrell’s two stolen wallets, which had a credit card in it, was at Robinson’s house sitting on the bench, and later on was moved to the shed out the back.
But a few days after the alleged murder, he says Robinson couldn’t find the wallet and became “worried and nervous”.
He says he definitely heard Robinson say something along the lines of “F**k I might be going to jail because of Nicho”.
Mr Flutey-Tuheke says there was a passport photo in the wallet which he noticed as the man on the news and in the paper that weekend who had been killed.
Waipuka ‘keen for a rumble’
Mr Flutely-Tuheke told the court about a party he had in his shed the night on the attack.
He says the shed doubled as his bedroom and a hangout and was at the back of the house Robinson lived at.
A group of them, including Waipuka and Robinson, started drinking at around 5pm on the Friday before the two accused went into town with a friend at midnight.
Before Waipuka left, Mr Flutey Tuheke says he heard him say he wanted to go to town to “get some chicks” and to “have some rumbles”.
“He said he was keen to knock someone out,” the court heard.
Sixty-eight witnesses are expected to be called during the two-week trial.