Witness list shortens at murder trial

Appearances by 40 Crown witnesses have been removed from the long list of witnesses to be called at the murder trial of 33-year-old Sainey Marong, after agreement on a document setting out “admitted facts”.

Such documents are commonly produced at trials, where the prosecution and defence agree on facts which can be regarded as evidence without witnesses having to give testimony in court. The document is given to the jury.

In this three-week trial, which started on Monday, the Crown had originally listed more than 100 witnesses to be called, but late on its second day, prosecutor Pip Currie told Justice Cameron Mander and the jury that 40 of the witnesses would no longer be called.

In the defence’s opening statement on Monday, Jonathan Krebs said much of the Crown evidence would be uncontested, and asked the jury to focus on issues of “mental imbalance”.

The trial heard evidence on the second day from the driver for the Christchurch sex worker, Rene Larissa Duckmanton, 22, whose burnt body was found beside the highway near Rakaia after she went missing in May 2016.

The driver told of her contacting him by text to request a ride on the day she disappeared, and how he had driven her to her usual work-place – the corner of Manchester and Peterborough Streets in central Christchurch. The driver described Duckmanton as “an amazing person”.

The trial later heard evidence from passers-by who discovered the burning body at the scene of a scrub-fire near Rakaia on May 15, 2016.

Detective Sergeant Todd Hamilton told the trial of the police’s forensic examination of the scene, which had been covered by a police tent overnight to protect it from the weather.

He told of a BIC lighter being found nearby, and a beanie hat, and the recovery of the burnt body for delivery to the mortuary.

In the opening address on Monday, Crown prosecutor Sean Mallett said Marong’s DNA had been found on a beanie hat and the striking wheel of a lighter found at the scene.

Detective Sergeant Hamilton said the woman’s body had obvious burn marks over most of her body, and her hair was burnt. There was the remains of some clothing around her pelvic area but it appeared she had not been wearing clothing on the top half of her body.

Marong, a butcher from Ilam, denies the charge of murdering the Miss Duckmanton.

The trial is continuing.

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