Toilet stop dispute before alleged murder

Edwin Linder
Edwin Linder

A homeless man who was murdered in central Auckland last year was "going to the toilet" where his alleged murderer and his friends wanted to sleep, a court has been told.

Edwin Linder, 42, died in hospital three days after the early morning assault in Mills Lane.

Steven Churchis, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, is standing trial in the High Court at Auckland charged with murdering Mr Linder on July 31, 2013.

He was today described as "stomping" on Mr Linder's head over an argument about a sleeping spot and a stolen bag.

The accused and his two friends -- who were also homeless -- came across Mr Linder shortly before 12.30am as they approached a spot at the bottom of Mills Lane where they had been sleeping for a few weeks prior to the attack, the court was told today.

While Churchis -- who was known as 'DJ' to his friends -- and a young woman went to a nearby fast food restaurant to use the bathroom, his two friends stayed behind. As they walked down the lane they saw Mr Linder crouching at the bottom of the lane, close to where one of them had left his blanket from the previous night.

"We were shocked to see somebody else there, and we asked him what he was doing," the friend told the court this morning, speaking with a screen blocking his view of Churchis.

"He was going to the toilet there."

The two friends tried to persuade Mr Linder to go to Burger King to use the bathrooms, but because he was "half-way through" he didn't want to move.

When Churchis returned, he recognised Mr Linder, and accused him of stealing his backpack on a previous occasion. A row erupted between the two of them and "then anger started coming out".

As Mr Linder tried to leave, Churchis kicked him in the chest, sending him crashing to the ground, the witness said.

"He was lying on the ground and he kicked him in the head and stood on his face.

"When he was on the ground he [Churchis] was stomping him on the head.

"It happened quite a few times, enough to knock the guy out, pretty much."

The two friends got up and started to walk away, he said, they turned around and told Churchis "that's enough bro", and he stopped and walked away with them.

They didn't ring an ambulance or police because they didn't realise how seriously injured he was.

"I've seen plenty of people get beat up, I thought he would be fine. Turns out he wasn't."

The trial continues.

- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ

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