Evidence not conclusive, defence says

The lawyer for a Dunedin man charged with manslaughter has slammed police for their forensic investigation of the crime scene.

Alan James Fahey (66) was found face-down in a pool of blood on the floor of his Brockville Rd lounge with injuries to his face.

His flatmate, 48-year-old Jason Karl Blackler, was allegedly responsible for his death but defence counsel Anne Stevens told the jury at his Dunedin High Court trial yesterday that the evidence would leave doubt.

Bloody footprints and marks found around the scene were attributed to Blackler by the Crown but she said there was no conclusive proof of that.

There was no inquiry as to who the footprints belonged to despite ''ridge detail'' (identifiable traits such as found in fingerprints) being present on the bathroom floor, the court heard.

''That investigation was simply not undertaken by the police, yet you're being asked to assume they are the defendant's footprints,'' Mrs Stevens said.

''None of us know what happened at 174 Brockville Rd on the evening of October 25, 2016. The Crown doesn't know, [pathologist] Dr Sage doesn't know, ESR doesn't know ... and neither does Jason Blackler,'' she said.

Her client told police he remembered arguing with Mr Fahey over sexually inappropriate comments about his terminally-ill sister but nothing beyond that.

Blackler claimed he did not remember throwing punches but assumed he had killed his best friend.

The day after the heavy drinking session, the defendant asked his friend Stephen Ferguson to check on Mr Fahey.

When he found the victim dead, Mr Ferguson reported back to the defendant it looked like he was ''beaten to death''.

''From that point on, Jason Blackler is convinced he beat his best friend to death,'' Mrs Stevens said.

Her client had no marks on his hands to indicate he had punched the victim, nor was any blood found on his clothes.

She suggested a scenario in which the victim's facial wounds were caused by himself.

''Mr Fahey's injuries could have been from a series of falls. The man is drunk, the house is an obstacle course,'' Mrs Stevens said.

She also pointed to the evidence of experienced pathologist Dr Martin Sage who described the man's wounds as ''non-fatal''.

Mr Fahey suffered chronic obstructive lung disease and very severe coronary heart disease and Dr Sage said he could not give a definite cause of death.

''If he was assaulted, the assault may have been incidental to his death,'' Mrs Stevens said.

For manslaughter to be proven, the Crown must prove the violence exacted by the defendant was a ''substantial and operative'' cause of death.

Prosecutor Robin Bates highlighted the evidence of Blackler's then girlfriend and her teenage daughter.

Phone records showed Blackler called the woman twice late on the night of the alleged killing.

While she told the court from the witness box that there was no discussion about a violent incident, the prosecutor said her daughter's account was more reliable.

The teen gave evidence that she went into her mother's room to retrieve a coffee cup and overheard a conversation.

''So on that night, Jason had rung up mum and he said he thinks he's killed his best friend,'' the girl told the court.

''Then he was speaking to me on the phone that he killed his best friend then he asks me if I could ring a taxi for him.''

Mr Bates said the young witness was resolute about how and when she heard the comments, despite being pressed during cross-examination.

Despite Blackler's comments to police he did not remember inflicting blows against Mr Fahey, other witnesses told the court he had admitted beating the man to death.

''He knew what he'd done, he knew why he'd done it,'' Mr Bates said.

The Crown also underscored Dr Sage's evidence.

Mr Bates said, from his testimony, it was clear a combination of serious assaults were a major contributor to Mr Fahey's death.

There was no evidence he would have died of pre-existing health conditions at the time without the addition of the assault, he said.

''I ask you to use your common sense,'' Mr Bates said.

Justice Rachel Dunningham will sum up the case today before the jury retires to consider its verdict.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

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