A jury has rejected a Loburn man’s claim that the shotgun blast that felled his ex-partner was an accident.
It convicted Luke Adam Nickless, 35, on the charge of wounding Renaye Strachan with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Judge Jane Farish remanded Nickless in custody for sentencing on November 23 and gave him a first strike warning under the system that imposes heavier penalties if violent offenders continue offending.
She asked for a pre-sentence report and an updated victim impact statement from the ex-partner, who had told the court of being shot in the leg in a violent domestic confrontation with Nickless at his Loburn property on September 29, 2017.
The jury came back with its verdicts on the fourth day of the Christchurch District Court trial. It spent three hours, including a lunch break, considering its verdicts, and asked one question which the judge answered in court.
Judge Farish also offered jury members counselling if they wished, after they had sat through intense evidence of the domestic row and the close-range shotgunning.
Strachan told on Monday of seeing her leg after the shooting. “I looked down and there was all this meat hanging out of my leg, and a big stream of blood pumping out.”
The court was told that Nickless and Strachan had one child from their three-year relationship and she had a six-year-old from a previous relationship. The two boys were in a car nearby when the shooting occurred. The couple were described in court as having a “tumultuous” relationship and had split up before the incident.
The court had been packed with Nickless’ family and supporters throughout the trial, and Judge Farish asked them before the verdicts to remain composed in fairness to the jury, and to respect the jury as it delivered the verdicts.
The crowd remained silent, and Nickless remained composed.
Judge Farish told the jury: “This case has been distressing for everyone involved. There have been people here to support Mr Nickless every day. The consequences that flowed from September 29 are far-reaching for him, for the children, and for Miss Strachan, and everyone in the courtroom today.”
The jury acquitted Nickless on a charge of assaulting the woman – a struggle over her cellphone as the incident began.
But it convicted him of wounding her with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, threatening to kill her, and four charges of unlawful possession of military style semi-automatic rifles. During the trial, Nickless admitted a charge of unlawful possession of a pistol. That was the shotgun, which had been shortened to the point where it was classed as a pistol.
Nickless said he used it for pig hunting, and had shortened it to go into a scabbard on his back so it would not snag on thick scrub while he was hunting.
He said that during the incident he had only wanted to make Strachan talk to him. He said he did not know the shotgun was loaded, and had only operated the pump-action mechanism so that it would “make the noise” and get her attention. As he pumped it, the weapon went off accidentally, shooting her in the leg, he said.
Strachan told a darker story of him saying, “How do you like that, bitch? I shot you.” She said he also held the gun to her head and said he was going to “blow your f—–g brains out”.