Shooter says he didn’t know gun was loaded

Soon after shooting his ex-partner in the leg with a shotgun, a Loburn man told both his neighbour and a police constable: “I didn’t know the gun was loaded.”

The Crown is alleging at the Christchurch District Court trial of Luke Adam Nickless that the shooting was deliberate, but the defence says it was accidental and denies there was also an assault and a threat to kill.

The four-day trial before Judge Jane Farish and a jury began on Monday, with 35-year-old Nickless denying charges of assaulting the woman, wounding her with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and threatening to kill her.

In its opening statement, the defence asked the jury to consider the credibility and reliability of the witnesses, and the evidence about the handling of the firearm.

The woman said in evidence on Monday that after a dispute at Nickless’ Loburn property about childcare arrangements, he had grabbed her by the throat, but then released her and shot her in the leg with a shotgun.

She said that after the shooting, Nickless pointed the gun at her head and said he was going to “blow your f—–g brains out.”

A neighbour at Loburn, Ivan James Fraser, said the shooting victim’s six-year-old child was brought to his farm by a passing ute on September 29, 2017.

He then drove 300m to the property. He saw the woman on the ground, with a bandage placed on a leg wound. Nickless told him he had called an ambulance, which took about 45min to arrive. Nickless was not aggressive and was probably in shock, he said.

When he asked Nickless if he had shot the woman, he said he had, and also said: “I didn’t know the gun was loaded.”

Constable Andre Barrett told the jury of stopping his patrol car about 300m from the farmhouse and then getting Nickless to walk out with his hands up. He said he had previously been called to a family harm incident involving that family in August 2015.

Constable Barrett said: “I asked him about the shotgun, and he said he didn’t know it was loaded. I said, ‘What are the seven cardinal rules (for firearms handling)?’ but he said, ‘I’m not saying anything more’.”

On the drive to Christchurch, they talked about a pig hunting competition, mutual friends, and the local rugby club.

Constable Barrett said: “I asked him what he was doing with a shotgun, and he said: ‘What are you supposed to do when someone threatens you?’ ”

The trial is continuing.

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