Marong murder trial: Opening addresses

Internet searches about kidnapping, necrophilia, and whether fire could destroy DNA were found on the cellphone of the man charged with the murder of Christchurch sex worker Rene Larissa Duckmanton, the Crown says.

The jury was told about Sainey Marong’s Internet search history as his trial began before Justice Cameron Mander in the High Court at Christchurch today.

Marong, 33, a butcher from Ilam, denies a charge of murdering 22-year-old Duckmanton whose body was found burning at the scene of a scrub fire on Main Rakaia Road, north of Rakaia, on May 15, 2016.

Defence counsel Jonathan Krebs told the jury that they should focus on matters connected with Marong’s behaviour in the time leading up to Miss Duckmanton’s death and soon after.

He urged them to keep an open mind because “matters only tend to crystallise once you have heard all evidence”.

The case should be considered “through the lens of mental imbalance”, he said. Much of the Crown evidence would not be contested.

Crown prosecutor Sean Mallett said the evidence was overwhelming that Marong had strangled Miss Duckmanton and then left her body on the roadside and set it alight.

He said CCTV footage showed Marong’s silver Audi car driving past Miss Duckmanton several times at her usual place of work on the corner of Manchester and Peterborough Streets about 9pm on May 14, 2016.

She had called her partner and her minder. She said she had a “job” and the customer was taking her to his house for a $300 fee. Footage showed Marong stopping at a cash machine in Riccarton and withdrawing $300.

The last communication from Miss Duckmanton’s phone was at 10.23pm, and after that, calls went straight to voicemail. It was disconnected from the Spark network at 10.25pm and police have never found it.

Her body was found by passers-by who attended a scrubfire on the roadside near Rakaia about 7.30pm on May 15. Her body was half naked and burning. Next day, police found a lighter, a beanie hat, and a sheep’s tongue nearby.

An autopsy showed Miss Duckmanton had been strangled to death, and the lack of soot in the airways indicated she was not alive when the fire began. Swabs taken from her body indicated the presence of Marong’s semen.

Mr Mallett said Marong had arranged to have a sleep slaughtered and had taken its tongue. Testing showed it was the same tongue found near Miss Duckmanton’s body.

He described Marong’s movements on the day after the murder when the Crown said her body was in his car. This included him buying a 2.8 litre bottle of petrol. The Crown says he did not buy the petrol to fill his car, as he told a friend, but to use to burn the body.

Footage would show Marong driving around Rakaia about 7pm attempting to find somewhere to dispose of the victim, he said.

Marong’s DNA was found on the lighter found at the scene, and the hat. Images showed him wearing the hat in the weeks before the death, he said.

His semen was found on the back seat of his car, and Miss Duckmanton’s hair was found in the front passenger footwell of the car, and in a vacuum cleaner used to clean the vehicle.

Marong was arrested on May 26, 2016, about 12 days after the death, he said.

Examination of his phone showed Internet searches that directly implicated him in Miss Duckmanton’s murder, said Mr Mallett.

Weeks before her death he had searched for “What kidnappers use to make someone unconscious”, and information about chloroform, and chemical suppliers. One search was: “Can fire destroy DNA?”

There were searches about kidnapping, and about Christchurch escorts, and multiple searches about necrophilia and men having sex with dead bodies. Several videos had been accessed and viewed.

Marong had exercised his right to silence when arrested but did say, “I was mentally and physically unwell.”

He later told a Corrections officer: “In my country I would be taken outside and killed for what I did.”

He said he had a desire to kill and had previously followed another prostitute.

He also said: “It was like hunting in the wild. They are slaves and she met the criteria.

Mr Mallett said the Crown alleged Marong had intended to kill when he strangled Miss Duckmanton, or he had known that strangling her was likely to cause her death but went ahead and did it anyway.

The trial is continuing, with the Crown calling evidence from more than 100 witnesses

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