Michael McGrath murder trial: Reporter says he received texts from claimed friend of David Benbow

A crime reporter working in Christchurch has told the jury in the Michael McGrath murder trial that after McGrath's disappearance, he received a series of texts from someone who said they were a friend of David Benbow's.

The texts were from someone claiming to be called 'Nigel' who the crime reporter quickly suspected was David Benbow himself.

Crime reporter Sam Sherwood was working for Stuff when McGrath disappeared.

During his course of enquiries into the case, he received texts from someone claiming to be a friend of Benbow's. The texts were talking about Benbow's ex-partner.

Sherwood read the texts to the Jury. 

"Joanna Green triggered the investigation. She had a chronic drinking problem at separation combined with antidepressants and painkillers for back."

Green was McGrath's partner at the time of his disappearance and who the Crown said was the catalyst for McGrath's murder.

The same number sent more texts to Sherwood about her.

"I then got a response saying the police have never searched her rental house or her car. She is a person of interest but you don't put her photo in the press," Sherwood said. 

In Sherwood's text replies, he asked the man who called himself 'Nigel' about the relationship between Benbow and McGrath.

"Were they good friends, Michael and David?"

"They were good friends and he hasn't been given a chance to grieve over a missing friend. Also, information circulating Michael McGrath is not a complete angel as displayed," Sherwood read. 

The crime reporter told the court he suspected the texts were from Benbow himself, so he sent a message to the number he had for Benbow mentioning his so-called friend Nigel.

Sherwood said he didn't receive a reply to that text.  

In cross-examination, Benbow's lawyers suggested from very early on the media was focused on Benbow as the suspect.

"Much of the media focus was on Mr Benbow as potential suspect?" Benbow's lawyer asked. 

"Ah, I think actually most of the focus was on Michael and what happened to Michael," Sherwood replied.

The trial continues. It's not yet known whether Benbow himself will take the stand.