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RNZ journalist’s murder ‘deliberate, random’

Monday 3 Dec 2012 12:40 p.m.

Phil Cottrell (file)

Phil Cottrell (file)

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Crown lawyers say the killing of Radio New Zealand journalist Phillip Cottrell was a “deliberate act of random violence” and the two men accused with his murder lied to police to distance themselves from the incident.

Mr Cottrell was found unconscious in a pool of blood on Boulcott St on December 10 last year. This morning the High Court in Wellington heard that his skull was shattered into 20 pieces and he had sustained serious neck and arm injuries. Mr Cottrell died in hospital the following day.

The Crown alleges that Manuel Robinson, 18, and Nicho Waipuka, 20, carried out the attack and murdered Mr Cottrell in an “unprovoked act of violence”.

In his opening address this morning, Crown prosecutor Tom Gilbert claimed the attack was the culmination of a number of aggressive incidents the pair were involved in the night Mr Cottrell died.

Mr Gilbert says Waipuka and Robinson had walked the streets in the hours before the attack confronting a number of strangers and asking them ‘what the fuck are you looking at?’.

He says as the pair were walking back to the Hume Apartment where they were staying, they came across Mr Cottrell who had just finished a nightshift at Radio New Zealand.

The Crown says the duo violently punched, kicked and attacked Mr Cottrell, stole his two wallets and left him lying unconscious on the pavement. He was later found in a pool of his own blood by a taxi driver, Mr Gilbert says.

Taxi driver: ‘He was alive and moving’

A Wellington taxi driver has described how he discovered Mr Cottrell lying bloodied and unconscious on the footpath.

Thomas Kelly, a Wellington Combined shuttle driver, says he saw Mr Cottrell’s body lying on the side of Boulcott St so pulled over and went to his aid.

Mr Cottrell was still alive and moving both of his arms but his eyes were closed and he was breathing very heavily, Mr Kelly recalls.

He says he saw blood coming from Mr Cottrell’s head, which was on the outer edge of the pavement on a raised concrete verge.

Mr Kelly says he doesn’t know if the backpack Mr Cottrell was wearing had been opened or if it was closed. 

The Crown alleges Robinson and Waipuka bolted from the scene to the apartment before Mr Kelly arrived. It is alleged they later went to the Wellington Railway Station to catch a train home.

It was at the station where the duo allegedly tried withdrawing money from one of Mr Cottrell’s credit cards and when that failed, they discarded it in the bathroom and threw the wallets in a rubbish bin.

When Robinson got home, he allegedly bragged about the attack to his mates, telling them about stealing someone’s wallet.

He was arrested four days later during a youth court appearance when a policeman recognised him as the man from CCTV footage that had been circulated to police. The Crown says Mr Cottrell’s business card was found in Robinson’s garage.

Mr Gilbert says when Waipuka found out about Mr Cottrell’s death, he text his girlfriend and asked her to be his alibi and later told police he was at home with her and her mother at the time of the attack.

The trial is expected to take two weeks during which time 68 witnesses will take the stand.

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