Sunday, 20 May 2012
Ex-wife the key in murder cold case pending since 1979 in New Zealand
Ex-wife the key in murder cold case
28 Jan 2012
Police allege the pensioner accused of shooting dead a man in a 32-year-old cold case then drove to Wellington and admitted the killing to his estranged wife.
The ex-wife is now the key witness in the case against him after a law change six years ago proved crucial for police investigating the death of Rodney Tahu in Turangi on August 16, 1979.
The 70-year-old grandfather was charged with Mr Tahu's murder in December and appeared in the Rotorua District Court again this week.
Judge James Weir ordered the accused man's interim name suppression to be lifted, but he still cannot be named after his lawyer Jonathan Temm appealed.
A reserved judgement released this week by Judge Phillip Cooper revealed new details of the police case.
Police allege that after the shooting, the defendant - then aged in his late 30s - travelled to Wellington and confessed to his estranged wife he had killed Mr Tahu a few hours earlier.
Since then, the defendant and his wife have divorced and changes to the Evidence Act in 2006 removed what was previously termed spousal immunity.
Under the old law, the Crown could not compel a spouse to give evidence without the consent of the husband or wife charged.
The law gave further protection to spouses in any court proceedings by protecting disclosures made during a marriage by one partner to the other.
But the 2006 law change did away with that protection and led to Bay of Plenty police laying the murder charge in December.
"The police contend that the evidence of the confession is now available to them, along with other evidence which the informant says strengthens the prosecution case," Judge Cooper said in his ruling released this week.
The documents show the defendant wanted name suppression to continue for fear of the impact of media attention on his daughters and grandchildren.
But Judge Cooper said the man had been estranged from one of his daughters for more than 20 years and she now had a different surname.
He was also not persuaded that the family circumstances set out in affidavits outweighed the presumption in favour of open reporting and ruled that name suppression should be lifted.
Mr Temm appealed against that decision and legal arguments will now be heard in the High Court at Rotorua.
The man has still not entered a plea. He has been remanded on continued bail until February 10 when a post-committal conference will be held.
Mr Tahu was a father of two sons and a popular local who refereed children's Saturday rugby matches.
The 32-year-old Shell service station attendant was found by a passing truck driver lying in a pool of blood next to a petrol pump with gunshot wounds to his head and shoulder.
He was rushed to Taumarunui Hospital but died shortly afterwards.
It is thought to be the oldest cold case in New Zealand history to end in an arrest.