Abbott Murder Trial: Further Police Evidence
First week of Abbott trial closes with further police evidence
Reporter: Richard Scott
The jury in the murder trial of Senior Constable Keith Abbott heard evidence from three more prosecution witnesses today, all police personnel.
In April 2000 Steven Wallace broke windows and attacked a police car before being shot dead after a confrontation with Abbott and another police officer on the main street of Waitara in Taranaki. Abbott has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and manslaughter against him, claiming that he acted in self-defence.
First in the witness box was Sergeant Fiona Prestidge, the senior officer on duty in New Plymouth at the time of the shooting. Examined by John Rowan QC for the prosecution, Prestidge described arriving at the immediate aftermath of the shooting shortly after 4am and the steps that she took to tend to Wallace before ambulances arrived. In particular, she recounted waiting for a period of 10 to 12 minutes before she inspected Wallace’s wounds and put a blanket over his lower body.
Prestidge also outlined the steps she had taken to log and preserve the integrity of evidence at the scene. This follows allegations made earlier this week that police tampered with evidence after the shooting.
Police training and procedure was also in the dock with the prosecution suggesting that Abbott and Constable Jason Dombroski, who gave his evidence yesterday, failed to adhere to normal procedure in drawing their weapons and going to intercept Wallace.
Under cross examination by defence barrister Susan Young, Prestidge testified that she was satisfied that the officers had acted appropriately, and that she, as their supervising officer, would have told them if she did not agree with their approach. Prestidge also refused to criticise the two officer’s decision not to don body armour and riot helmets before confronting Wallace.
Later the Court heard the evidence of Robert Ngamoki, a Police Armourer who had tested the Glock pistol fired by Abbott, and of Sergeant Robert O’ Keefe. Like Prestidge, O’Keefe arrived in Waitara shortly after the shooting.
Examined by prosecution barrister Michael Behrens QC, he described a conversation in which Abbott told him that the victim was a David Toa and said that Toa “had just gone crazy and smashed up the town…I fired a warning shot but he just kept coming for me”.
The victim was not identified as Wallace until a short time later. The defence alleges that Abbott fired a warning shot into the air just before shooting Wallace, even though this bullet has never been found.
The first week of the prosecution case against Abbott came to an early end with proceedings concluding shortly after 3pm, when Justice Chambers reminded jurors not to speak to others about the case, or to read media comment over the weekend. The Court is not sitting tomorrow (Friday) and the prosecution will resume its evidence on Monday at 10am. The trial is expected to last for the next 2 weeks.
The prosecution is expected to call its expert evidence next week including forensic evidence that will examine bulletholes in Wallace’s sweatshirt, and expert evidence on police training and procedure. This is expected to suggest that Abbott failed to adhere to normal police procedure in apprehending and shooting Wallace.
The case is continuing.