Article – Annemarie Thorby
The end of week two of the “Urewera Four’’ continued with more examination of evidence around alleged training exercises which police witnesses described as less than polished.Operation 8 Trial Day 9 – Friday, End of Week Two
By Annemarie Thorby
The end of week two of the “Urewera Four’’ continued with more examination of evidence around alleged training exercises which police witnesses described as less than polished.
Video Clips – Cross-examination
The morning continued with the cross-examination of the same officer who previously had presented video evidence of both the September and October ‘camps’.
Russell Fairbrother questioned about a spreadsheet created to identify shots and sequences in the video footage.
He asked if the officer had ‘checked every entry against the original source’.
The officer said that ‘the spreadsheet was created for him to go through and see’, and `as a guide for the enquiry team’.
His ‘responsibility was to manage the staff watching videos, and he ‘went through to see what he thought was relevant’.
As to a question about disclosure, he said that the officer in charge of disclosure to the court was Detective Aaron Pascoe.
Fairbrother then asked questions about footage from the October camp, particularly about excerpts that the prosecution had not played in court.
These included shots which showed more than one vehicle and training gear (pads and gloves).
There was also discussion about what ‘training’ the people could have been doing with the vehicles; Fairbrother asked could it have been extraction of VIPs?
He then asked if the officer could ‘comment on weaponry and skills from a fire arms experts’ position?’
The officer replied, ‘I’d have to say that the drills were not executed as sharply as they could be and awareness was lax’.
He then clarified that the ‘muzzle awareness was not good’.
Fairbrother was asked by the court to clarify what a muzzle was – ‘Is the muzzle the hole in the end of the barrel?’
When the officer said that he believed so, Fairbrother asked why he was ‘afraid to commit?’ The officer replied, “Not at all sir.”
Fairbrother then asked about the timing of the sound clips been previously played and how they related to the video footage.
He also asked if some of the shots heard could have been ‘shots that set off the activity that was the beginning of a vehicle dismount’.
The officer said that he couldn’t answer that.
Fairbrother then said that some people in the video could be seen wearing the Tino Rangitiratanga image on clothing and that that is now a common image.
The officer remarked ‘on bumper stickers too’.
Fairbrother was quick to remark, ‘but not on police cars’. The officer responded that he had ‘a colleague that has one on his personal car’.
There was then a lot of discussion about identifying Tame Iti and how identifications were made.
Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara’s lawyer, Jeremy Bioletti asked the officer how windy it was on the day that the shots were recorded. The officer said, “there was some movement in the trees, sir.”
Bioletti also cross-examined the officer over how many vehicles were present at the camp and what action could have been happening around them, and, like Fairbrother, he asked about the area around Whetu Road.
He asked the officer if cars passing on nearby roads could be heard.
The officer said that for him, it was ‘reasonably isolated’.
The officer also said that he could not see ‘rugby posts, roof tops and tops of poles’ from the area. But he did say that it was a ‘party-up scene’ and it was ‘well-used’.
Urs Signer’s lawyer, Christopher Stevenson, asked about identification of people in the various video clips.
He pointed out that one of the ‘unidentified females’ from the so-called ‘Molotov cocktail’ clip was actually identified in another photo. She was none of the people never arrested.
He also pointed out video clips shown to the jury on Thursday had only shown one group of horses walking past the gravel mound where people had sat and purportedly watched people throwing Molotov cocktails.
However, when the complete video is watched two different groups with horses go past the mound.
Mr Stevenson also asked about surveillance of ‘activists’ in general.
He wanted to know if, when the officer had worked for the SIG (Special Investigations Group), had there been regular surveillance of protest groups’?
The officer replied that with the Auckland SIG, ‘not per se’ but he ‘understood that Wellington SIG parameters were different from Auckland’.
He said, ‘in Auckland had there was another group looking after issue motivated groups’.
He said ‘Wellington and Christchurch SIG were independent entities’ and whilst working for the SIG on Operation 8, he ‘went to one protest… to see Urs’.
Under cross-examination, he said that now he had ‘a different role’ and does attend protests but ‘these are other matters’ that he ‘wouldn’t go into, that don’t relate to this matter’.
The prosecution chose to re-examine this witness and asked the officer again about possible training exercises people could have been doing by the vehicle.
The officer was also asked to explain about how he thought he had identified Iti as being the person in the video clips and photos.
The next witness had also previously appeared. He was the Exhibits Officer for Whetu Road. He explained how the scene had been searched by himself and a specialist Search Group and they had metal detectors with them.
He also explained about camera placement by both the gravel mound and the place where people were alleged to have been throwing Molotov cocktails.
After the morning break an officer from Wellington CIB gave evidence.
He was the exhibits officer for one of the houses raided in Wellington on 15th October 2007.
The person arrested at this house, was one of the group who subsequently had all charges dropped against them.
At the house the Officer said he ‘located a camouflage pair of pants that were hanging on a line in the bedroom’ and that he ‘secured those pair of pants’.
He also found among other things, a cell-phone, paper, cardboard with one of the other camp attendant’s name and address on it (a person who also had had all charges dropped against them), a duffel-style coat and a list of phone numbers.
Under cross-examination he was asked if he had photographed items in situ or not (he said he had), and he was also asked if he had found any chemistry notes. He said that he had not.
The next officer was also from Wellington, and an Exhibits’ Officer for a place searched in Wellington – a camp site near Te Aro school.
He introduced photos of the camp site and described in detail the lay-out. He described how there were two tents, one for people and a smaller camouflage one that housed a dog. He said two backpacks were located at the camp site and that in one of them was a .22 Marlin rifle.
In the same backpack was found ‘a plastic red bag and within that red bag was a breadbag, a cap with a red badge, gloves and a patch’. In the area were also found a pair of camouflage pants, a wet-weather poncho, and a pair of fingerless gloves.
He said that other items of particular interest ‘were invites to a 2008 New Year’s Eve party, it was for supporters of the Tuhoe nation and had ‘for Emily’ written on top’.
There was also a ‘black balaclava with a bobbin on top of it also located’.
Under cross-examination he said that he did not attempt to find out what was written on the patch nor what was on the red badge on the cap.
The final witness for the day was once more the Exhibits Officer for Whetu Road. He was recalled and asked to play a video shot by police at the area after Operation 8 was terminated. Several times he pointed out ‘two pieces of cardboard found on the mound and another one leaning up against a tree’.
There were also ‘fresh tyre tracks through the area’, ‘a lot of broken glass around that mound’ (not the gravel mound but a grassy knoll).
He said there were ‘a number of items found’ in the area, including ‘stubby bottles’, and ‘bottles upturned obviously used as target practise’. These bottles were not broken.
He also pointed out the stove that had been mentioned previously in evidence. It is the stove that allegedly has a rabbit drawn on one side and on another a human ‘target’. The stove also has numerous easily seen bullet holes.
The Officer did not point out the rabbit or human figure.
Roofs of houses and a suburban area were clearly visible in the background of one part of the view from the Whetu Road area.
After the video ended, court was adjourned and the judge wished everyone a good weekend.
As a result of missing two days the court, had been warned that it would sit until 3.30pm Friday.
However, the prosecution went faster than expected and court finished on-time at 1pm, despite missing two days of court due to a juror’s ill health.