Drugs rip-off led to fatal bashing, defence says

Peter John Carroll says he hit Marcus Luke Tucker with a metal steering lock to “address” him using photocopied $100 bills to buy drugs. [Updated report]

He gave him a “backhander” with the steering lock across the back of the neck to try to subdue him before speaking about Tucker’s dishonesty in his drug deals, according to Carroll’s defence counsel Tim Fournier.

Mr Fournier addressed the jury before calling evidence from two witnesses – including Carroll – on the seventh day of the murder trial in the High Court at Christchurch.

The beating that followed that “backhander” in a woman’s bedroom at a house in Addington, led to the death of 36-year-old Tucker, and Carroll being on trial for his murder.

Tucker’s bashed and burnt body, wrapped in carpet, was found by fishermen in Drain Road, near Lake Ellesmere, the next day

Mr Fournier told the jury that Carroll’s account differed from the Crown’s claim of the motive for the bashing on April 24, 2016.

The Crown case was that the bashing was retribution for an earlier drugs robbery, and Tucker being mistaken for one of the robbers because they shared the same nickname, “Ruckus”.

Mr Fournier said the Crown could not have any certainty about their case because they had to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Carroll, 53, had a murderous intent. Carroll accepted that he assaulted Tucker, but Mr Fournier urged the jury to return a manslaughter verdict.

He wanted them to set aside feelings of sympathy and prejudice, even though it was “very difficult not to have a negative response” to an aspect of the case – the burning of Tucker’s body after his death.

They had seen a slice a life they were not familiar with. The drug-using community was “a harsh and violent world”, he said. “There is not a lot of honesty or reliability. People are out for themselves as much as they can.”

Carroll would allege that Tucker had ripped him off in a drug deal made through one of his woman customers, in paying for methamphetamine with $300 in real notes, and $1500 in photocopied $100 bills – known as “Rutherfords”.

When he visited the woman’s house and she said Tucker was in her bedroom, he got the steering lock from his car and went in. “He wanted to subdue Mr Tucker. He wanted to address with him that it was not okay to buy drugs with photocopied money.”

He gave Tucker the “backhander” with the steering lock because he thought it would be enough, and then jumped on top of him to get him under control after tossing the lock on the floor.

Tucker was not subdued and a struggle developed. Carroll picked up the lock and struck him once or twce more “hoping to subdue him so he could remonstrate with him about the money”.

The struggle continued and he struck him again to get him under control.

“The situation had developed in a way he did not expect,” Mr Fournier said.

When Tucker was lying lifeless in the bedroom, he realised that things had gone badly wrong. He could not find a pulse.

Carroll would say in evidence that the woman cut electric blanket ties to tie the wrists and ankles to make it easier to move the floppy body to the boot of his car, and she had helped to carry him out.

The woman has already denied that in her evidence last week.

Carroll would say it was only after Tucker was dead that the woman told him he was named “Ruckus” – the nickname of the person said to have been involved in the drugs robbery the month before.

Afternoon update: Carroll told the trial he went to the woman’s address in Addington to pick up the cash, after telling her that she had to “sort out” the counterfeit money issue from a meth deal three days before. He was then told that Tucker, who was responsible for the rip-off, was in the bedroom.

Carroll got the steering lock from his car. He said he carried the lock in the car for protection because he travelled with thousands of dollars of cash and methamphetamine.

He described hitting Tucker with the steering lock “to try to stop him from doing anything silly and to intimidate him”. He hit Tucker several more times as the struggle continued and Tucker “would not calm down”. The struggle continued until Tucker “went all floppy and stopped moving”.

He said his intention was to scare Tucker enough “with shock and awe” so that he would believe what he had to say.

He checked for breathing and a pulse, and realised Tucker had died. There was a lot of blood around and he realised he must have hit Tucker in the head, though he had not intended to do that. He had tried to hit him with the flat side of the steering lock.

After the body was put in the car, the woman told him that the man was “Ruckus”.

He met another man – another witness at the trial – and decided to dump Tucker’s body near Lake Ellesmere and set it on fire to destroy DNA and forensic evidence.

The trial is continuing.

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