Witness says accused threatened him before attack on journo
A Dominion Post worker has told the jury in the Phillip Cottrell murder trial how one of the accused yelled expletives at him shortly before the alleged attack.
Phil Barton, an engineer at the newspaper, has been giving evidence at the trial for two men charged with murdering the 44-year-old Radio New Zealand journalist. He says he saw Nicho Waipuka, 20, and Manuel Robinson, 18, walking up Boulcott St when he arrived at work following the alleged attack, which occurred 100 metres from the Dominion Post building.
“I looked across at them. One of the men appeared to say something to me which I had difficulty hearing,” he told the High Court in Wellington this morning.
“It sounded like, ‘What the f**k are you looking at?
“It sounded like he was threatening me.”
Mr Barton said he assumed the pair were walking home from a night on the town and could be intoxicated.
“I glanced up [the road] and I would explain it by saying he was looking back at me with a glare and egging me to say something […] my thoughts were to get into the building.”
When he arrived at work, Mr Barton says Robinson – who was “hunched” and had “a bit of swagger” – was on the opposite side of the road to where Mr Cottrell’s body was later found.
He says Waipuka was the “taller man” and was in the middle of the road, around 25 metres from him.
The Crown alleges the pair deliberately but randomly killed Mr Cottrell and stole his wallet while he was walking home on Boulcott St after a nightshift at Radio New Zealand in December last year.
His skull was shattered into 20 pieces, his arm was broken in two places and his face was bloodied and bruised. He died in hospital the day after.
The pair deny murdering Mr Cottrell.
The jury was yesterday shown CCTV footage of Mr Cottrell walking down Boulcott St followed by the two men around 30 seconds later. The Crown says the men, sprinting up the hill, were Robinson and Waipuka.
It is alleged the duo went to a friend’s apartment for four hours after the attack before heading to the Wellington Railway Station, where they unsuccessfully tried withdrawing $600 from Mr Cottrell’s credit card.
The card was later found in the men’s bathroom and the wallet in the station’s rubbish skip.
The trial is set down for just over two weeks. Sixty-eight witnesses will give evidence.