At the time two Tauranga men were murdered the area was in the grip of an out-of-control methamphetamine scene, a High Court jury has been told.
It was an era when there was big money to be made manufacturing and dealing in the drug, with violence and conflict regularly featuring, Tauranga crown prosecutor Greg Hollister-Jones said in the High Court at Rotorua today.
He was outlining a complex series of events culminating in the deaths of Darrell James Crawford and William Taikato.
The Crown alleges Mr Crawford was murdered in August 2007 and Mr Taikato four months later. Neither man’s body has been found, their families had not heard from them, their bank accounts remained untouched and their cellphones silent.
Mark Haimona Puata, 50, of Te Puke, is charged with Mr Crawford’s murder on or about August 12, 2007. In addition he is charged with David Peter James Anderson, 41, and John Aitken, 33, both of Welcome Bay, with murdering William Taikato, 40, on or around December 19, 2007.
Anderson is charged in the alternative with being an accessory after the fact of Mr Taikato’s murder.
Mr Hollister-Jones told the jury Mr Crawford was a meth “cook” and Mr Taikato was heavily involved with the drug and those associated with it.
At the time of Mr Taikato’s death Aitken was president of the Greasy Dogs gang, Anderson was a fellow member. It was the Crown’s contention Mr Taikato died outside the gang’s Welcome Bay “pad”.
There had not been any sightings of Mr Crawford since he left his home on August 12, 2007, his car was found abandoned in a remote spot the next day and a police search uncovered his sweat shirt and car keys a short distance away.
“The Crown says the only conclusion that can be reached is that Mr Crawford is deceased,” Mr Hollister-Jones said.
The jury would hear evidence that early in 2007 a Te Puke man and an associate were approached by Puata who asked them to “do a hit” on Mr Crawford. Their reward was to be a considerable sum of money.
In December that year, when talking to friends about his involvement in Mr Taikato’s death, Puata admitted killing Mr Crawford, claiming Mr Taikato had been buried on top of him.
While on remand in October the following year he had told a cell-mate he had “shot the Pakeha fella”, then taken him for a drive.
Referring to the events leading up to Mr Taikato’s death, Mr Hollister-Jones said a man called Dobbs had driven to the Greasy Dogs’ pad where he saw Aitken and Mr Taikato involved in an angry exchange.
“Aitken had a pistol pointing right at Mr Taikato, he [Taikato] had his chest puffed out, he was approaching Aitken telling him ‘go on, kill me’,” Mr Hollister-Jones said. Mr Dobbs had described him as being “fearless, really amped up”.
An agitated Anderson had come downstairs saying it was not a convenient time to visit but he would get him some gear (methamphetamine) later.
“Dobbs says Aitken put the pistol against Mr Taikato and discharged the firearm into his body, Dobbs saw his body recoil from the shot.”
Mr Hollister-Jones had earlier said there was a mutual grievance between Aitken and Mr Taikato over various “flash cars”.
The trial is before Justice Joseph Williams and a jury of eight women and four men. The Crown is to call 43 witnesses and the trial is expected to last four weeks.