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Jeep driver was Maori: Winders trial told

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/09/2016

George Taiaroa © Supplied George Taiaroa The driver of a Jeep Cherokee seen around the time stop-go man George Taiaroa was shot dead didn't fit the description of the man accused of his murder, defence witnesses say.

Quinton Winders, 45, is accused of shooting Mr Taiaroa as he went about his job at Atiamuri, south of Tokoroa, in 2013.

The first of 10 defence witnesses have given evidence in the High Court at Rotorua as the trial entered its fifth week on Monday.

Gary Hooper, who had been delivering metal to a "hole in the bush" near where the stop-go man was gunned down, told the court he saw a jeep-like vehicle looming towards him out of the semi-darkness.

It gave him such an eerie feeling the hairs on the back of his neck stood up "for probably one of the two or three times of my life," he said.

Image of Quinton Winders  © Mediaworks Image of Quinton Winders 

Police say Winders, a Pakeha, was driving a blue Jeep Cherokee when he shot Mr Taiaroa.

Two more witnesses gave evidence of seeing a blue Cherokee in the same area before Mr Taiaroa's death. One said it was going very fast, the other very slowly.

Peter Moran said the jeep he saw had gold lettering on it and the driver was a very large Maori man.

Lionel Gage agreed he was a Maori, describing him as tall.

Mr Gage, a forestry worker, said he was so concerned about the way the jeep was being driven he considered it a health and safety hazard so followed it for about five minutes.

Via audio visual link from Brisbane, Alyssa Hoogedoorn said she chatted to Mr Taiaroa as he was holding his stop-go sign, before he was killed.

After crossing the bridge he was controlling she saw a weird, scruffy, dark-skinned man in nearby bushes.

"I had a bit of a strange feeling about him," she said, "that he was a bit of a weirdo."

The trial is continuing.

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