Identification key issue at drugs shooting trial

Identification of an armed intruder who shot a man in the neck and shoulder is the key issue at a drugs robbery trial in the Christchurch District Court.

The Crown says cannabis was being dealt by occupants of the Bryndwr flat that 34-year-old Rory Manuel allegedly raided with another intruder in the early hours of December 29, 2018.

The other intruder had never been identified, Crown prosecutor Sean Mallett told the jury as the three-day trial began before Judge Jane Farish.

He said two men, wearing red and white tops, forced their way into the house and the Crown would say that Manuel was the “man in blue”.

He said Manuel was linked to the armed robbery by his identification from a photo montage by one of the victims, by his thumb print on a box at the crime scene, by his cellphone tracing him to a nearby cellphone tower at about that time, and by two distinct bottles of vodka taken in the robbery which were later found at his house.

He told the jury: “It should be a relatively simple and straightforward case.”

Manuel denied the charge of robbing three people at the address and causing grievous bodily harm to one of the victims during the robbery.

His defence counsel, Tim Fournier, told the jury there was only one issue at the trial.

“It is not whether or not you believe (Manuel) was the ‘man in blue’. The issue is, Has the Crown proved beyond reasonable doubt that he was?”

He asked the jurors to consider the circumstances in which the identification had been made, including how long the man was in view, the lighting in the area, what else was going on, the composure of the observer, and whether drugs had been consumed.

Mr Mallett said the Crown would call evidence from 16 witnesses, including two people at the robbery scene who would give evidence by video-link.

He said the shooting victim was at the flat with a man and a woman on the night of the robbery. The two men had been involved in selling cannabis and the three smoked methamphetamine during the evening.

They were watching a movie on television after 2am when there was a knock at the door. The door was then kicked or shoved open and a gun was pointed at the face of the man who had gone to open it.

Two men came in, one armed with a shotgun. The two male victims were ordered to lie face down and the woman was made to face the wall with a blanket over her head. She was told that if she didn’t stop screaming they would shoot her.

The intruders asked where the “money, drugs, and valuables” were. They then began searching and looting the property. They took laptops, cellphones, and two distinctive bottles of vodka, over the next 10 minutes. They took the wallet and watch from one of the men.

The shooting victim was asked to stand up and walk to a bathroom while the intruders began moving moving furniture around. The gun then went off, hitting him in the left side of the neck and shoulder.

The intruders left in the other man’s car, which was found burnt out on January 9.

The woman later identified Manuel from a photo montage as being the intruder dressed in blue and holding the gun.

Mr Mallett said Manuel’s right thumb print was found on a modem box at the address, and when his home in Shirley was searched, two of the same type of vodka bottles were found.

Cellphone records showed that at 2.12am, Manuel’s cellphone had connected with a cell tower close to the Bryndwr address where the robbery took place.

The robbery victim who was not shot, told the trial the men had been switching the shotgun between them during the incident. At one stage, they lifted the couch to look underneath it, and as it was let back down onto the floor the gun went off. The two intruders then ran out and took off in his car, which had already been loaded with items they had taken.

He thought the shooting had been accidental, he said.

The trial is continuing.

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