Man faces jury over sealion's stabbing death

A man allegedly stabbed a sea-lion pup to death with a bayonet then claimed the police officer investigating him was having an affair.

The 54-year-old man, who has name suppression, is on trial before the Dunedin District Court charged with wilful ill-treatment of an animal and wilfully preventing the course of justice.

Crown prosecutor Craig Power told the jury assembled this morning that no one would give evidence that they saw the defendant kill Rua the sea lion.

The case would be circumstantial, he said.

On November 5, 2016, a Doc biodiversity ranger was called out to Portobello after hearing of the animal's death.

He found Rua behind some rocks at Quarantine Point and initially thought she had been shot.

However, when the carcass was examined by experts at Massey University, they found two stab wounds.

A scientist is expected to tell the jury the injuries were inflicted by a smooth-edged blade at least 15cm long.

Police executed a search warrant at the defendant's home while he was on holiday and seized two knives and a bayonet from his kitchen.

That bayonet, the expert will say, was consistent with the wounds found to Rua.

A forensic scientist from the US analysed the bayonet and found a combination of human and sea-lion DNA, Mr Power said.

The prosecutor also told the jury members of the defendant's family would give evidence for the Crown – his daughter and former partner.

It is alleged the man told them just days before Rua's death of his frustrations with a sea lion stealing his fish and damaging his nets.

He allegedly told them he was going to kill the animal responsible.

A text message expressing his ire over his lost fish would also be used as evidence of the defendant's frame of mind immediately beforehand.

Defence counsel Judith Ablett-Kerr QC said the police investigation into the slaying was defective from the outset.

“If you listen carefully to the evidence in this case, you'll see, rather than a full and independent investigation that we would normally expect from the police, there was, in this particular instance a bias; a fundamentally flawed investigation that focused its attention on only one man.”

Relations between the officer in charge of the case and the defendant became strained, the court heard.

The pair spoke on the phone on February 27, 2017 during which the defendant accused him of cheating on his wife and said he would inform her.

“Don't threaten me,” the senior sergeant said.

“It's not a threat, it's a promise,” the defendant allegedly responded.

Ms Ablett-Kerr said the allegation that that was an attempt to pervert the course was “rubbish”.

“Rather the opposite. There was a volatile plea for a fair enquiry from a man who thought he was the victim of a witch hunt,” she said.

Ms Ablett-Kerr warned the jury to guard against an emotional response when considering the evidence.

“Emotion is the enemy of good justice.”

The trial, before Judge Michael Crosbie and a jury of nine women and three men, is expected to last a week.