The night before a planned wedding, the bride went hunting for the groom, armed with a knife and accompanied by Bandidos gang associates.
The group never found the groom that night, but now the bride, Stephanie Jane McGrath, 27, has pleaded guilty to wounding two men and assaulting a woman who were injured as the group raided a housebus.
Nicholas Andrew Hanson, 31, a Bandidos gang prospect, has admitted that he was the person who stabbed two men and assaulted the woman victim.
He pleaded guilty in the Christchurch District Court 12 days ago to charges of wounding the two men with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and assaulting the woman. McGrath pleaded guilty to the same joint charges, admitting that she had instigated the incident.
Both of them are now remanded in custody for sentencing, but no date has yet been set.
Two men the Crown alleges formed the rest of the group that carried out the attacks on August 30, 2015 – Alvin Ritesh Kumar, a 34-year-old factory hand from Woolston, and Jesse James Winter, 29 – went on trial before Judge Stephen O’Driscoll and a jury in the Christchurch District Court today.
They deny the same three charges at a three-week trial where the Crown may call up to 30 witnesses.
Richard Maze appears as defence counsel for Kumar, and Andrew Bailey and Kiran Paima appear for Winter. Claire Boshier and Donald Matthews appear for the Crown.
Opening the case for the Crown, Mr Matthews told the jury that McGrath “had a grievance” with the groom on the night before they were due to be married. When police searched her property afterwards, they found the marriage licence, for a wedding that was to take place next day. The couple had a “volatile relationship” and some issues arose on August 30, 2015.
He said McGrath knew where the groom had been that day – at a birthday celebration at a housebus in Johns Road – and the group of four was brought together that evening and went there in McGrath’s car.
They knocked on the door and asked for the groom, and after being told he was not there, the man at the door was slashed in the face by Hanson and then stabbed several times. He then stabbed the second man in the head and the other two members of the group – the Crown says it was Kumar and Winter – punched and kicked him.
Hanson kicked the woman to the ground twice when she tried to intervene, and she received a cut to the hand as she tried to protect herself.
As the group left, they were still threatening the groom. They were heard saying that he was “finished” and he was going to die.
The Crown says text messages show the group being assembled that evening. A person living nearby took the number of the car as it left, and police found it at McGrath’s address in Hornby soon after.
It says Hanson and Winter had already left on foot, but Kumar was linked because he was found in the car with McGrath, and blood from the victims was found on his jeans. He also fitted the description given by witnesses of a man of Indian ethnicity, small stature, wearing a blue striped top.
Winter was linked by text messaging, and by tracing his cellphone to the area of the property. He allegedly sent texts to his girlfriend saying he was going “on a mish” (mission), and trying to have someone say he was staying somewhere else that night “if the feds come calling”.
Mr Matthews said the Crown said the two were parties to the group’s “common purpose” in planning and carrying out the attack.
“If you make a plan to seriously assault someone, arm yoursleves, and travel as a group late at night for a surprise attack, if someone gets hurt in the process, that is a logical outcome of the common plan,” he said.
In explanation, Kumar told police he was on a Tinder date with McGrath. Winter said someone else must have had his phone.
For Kumar, Mr Maze said the key issue was what was going on in Kumar’s mind at the relevant time. “One of the tricky things about this trial is that you are going to hear an awful lot of evidence about things that took place when he simply wasn’t there. Keep an open mind,” he said.
The trial is continuing.