Abbott Murder Trial: Evidence Tampering Claims
Did Police Tamper With Evidence At Scene Of Wallace Shooting?
Reporter: Richard Scott
A prosecution witness in the murder trial of Senior Constable Keith Abbott claimed that another police officer, Constable Jason Dombroski, pocketed an object off the ground shortly after Steven Wallace was fatally shot by Abbott on Waitara’s main street. The prosecution evidence raises allegations that police tampered with evidence at the scene.
Waitara resident Barbara George lived at the time of the shooting in April 2000 on the main street of Waitara close to where the shooting took place. She said she came outside to see what was going on after hearing lots of commotion. On the street she saw Wallace being followed by two police officers.
Examined by Debbie Goodlet for the prosecution, Ms George told the Court how the two officers had followed Wallace with their pistols drawn. One said “We have been after you for a long time, Dave”, and Wallace was referred to again as “Dave” when the officers told him that they were armed.
Shortly after the shooting, Abbott flippantly told George’s ex-partner to, “go back to school and learn how to count”, when he was asked why he had shot Wallace 4 or 5 times. Ms George’s ex-partner is expected to give evidence shortly.
The revelations come on the second day of the prosecution evidence in the trial of Senior Constable Keith Abbott, who shot dead 23 year old Steven Wallace in Waitara on 30 April 2000. Abbott has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and manslaughter in a private prosecution brought by Wallace’s family in connection with the killing.
Also in the witness stand today, a taxi driver, Edward Cooper, who witnessed Wallace’s shooting from a distance of some 150 metres. He described how he had seen Wallace advancing at walking pace towards Constables Wallace and Dombroski, although not directly at them, as the police officers walked backwards with pistols trained upon him. Cooper also told the Court how he had heard shouting shortly before Abbott fired the fatal volley of shots, and Wallace slumped to the ground.
Earlier today, the jury heard evidence from two police officers and watched a police training video in which two officers using pepper spray subdue an assailant wielding a baseball bat. Under cross-examination, Detective Keith Borrell told the Court that he would not have used pepper spray or a long handled baton himself to apprehend Wallace. Another police officer, Detective Blair Burnett, described Abbott as reliable, very competent, honest and loyal.
A Waitara shopkeeper, Tom Kettle, told the jury how he had followed Wallace at a distance as he smashed shop windows on McLean Street with a baseball bat and golf club. Mr. Kettle recounted how he flagged down a minibus taxi with 6 to 10 passengers approaching the scene from New Plymouth. Kettle did not witness the shooting, but heard the word “gun” uttered shortly before hearing 5 shots being fired.
In their cross-examinations of the prosecution witnesses, the defence team of Susan Hughes and Patrick Mooney again focussed on the alarm that Wallace was causing to Waitara residents, and the threat that he posed to their safety and property in his “campaign of damage”. Even though it was shortly after 4am at the time of the shooting, the defence highlighted the number of bystanders and residents who had been drawn to the scene.
Some inconsistencies also emerged in the prosecution witnesses’ evidence concerning the number and timing of the shots fired. Although all agreed that the shots had been fired rapidly, witnesses’ accounts differed when it came to describing the precise pattern of the shooting.
Abbott’s trial is expected to last for three weeks.