Dunedin cleaner found guilty of murdering colleague
A cleaner has been found guilty of murdering his supervisor in a brutal carpark assault in the Dunedin High Court.
The jury on Tuesday afternon unanimously decided Alexander James William Merritt, 21, was guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murdering Karin Ann Ross, 51, in the early hours of December 2, 2015.
The Crown says Ms Ross was following her normal routine after finishing a cleaning job at approximately 12:36am.
Ms Ross then travelled to the carpark of Spotless Cleaning Services on Strathallan St in south Dunedin in a company van and began disposing of rubbish into a skip when she was attacked by Merritt, who knew when and where she would be that night.
The Crown says Ms Ross fought back and tried to get back in the van to escape, but was pulled back out by Merritt, who continued to attack Ms Ross until she succumbed to her injuries.
Her body was found face down in a pool of blood in the carpark around 2am by the defendant's mother Sharon Merritt, who initially mistook the body for rubbish.
Blood was found on the interior and exterior of the van.
Emergency services said it appeared Ms Ross had been the victim of a violent attack. She had bled profusely from scalp injuries, and also had extensive injuries to her face and bruising to her arms.
Police carried out forensic examination of Merritt's home in Nairn St, Kaikorai, over a number of days where they recovered blood-stained shoes, a top, a single glove and a blood-soaked hammer from a bin at the property.
DNA testing revealed that blood was likely to have come from Ms Ross.
Merritt was found to have scratches to his face, which he claimed he had given himself during his sleep. He admitted to police that he didn't like Ms Ross, who had recently reduced his working hours, and had told a colleague he wanted to burn her family alive in front of her. A workplace dispute was on-going between Ms Ross and Merritt, who was facing disciplinary proceedings.
The Crown say Merritt told a friend that he didn't care Ms Ross died and showed no remorse when he learned her body had been found.
Defence lawyer Anne Stevens says none of the items found at Merritt's property belonged to their client and suggested there were holes in the Crown's case.
"You cannot find the charge of murder against Alexander Merritt proved beyond reasonable doubt and we submit you should find him not guilty," she told the jury.
The defence says police considered Merritt an easy target for prosecution due to his differences with Ms Ross, and argued there was no evidence Merritt was at the carpark where Ms Ross died.
"We've heard what a creature of habit Alexander Merritt is, his day contains a repeating set of tasks," Ms Stevens said.
Ms Stevens added that cellphone records showed there was no variation between Merritt's location on the night of the murder and the night after, which she said showed he wasn't near Strathallan St on the night of Ms Ross' death.
"[The phone records show] exactly the same pattern on the 2nd of December [and] exactly the same pattern on the 3rd of December," she says.
Merritt will face sentencing on Decemeber 13.