Invercargill cop admits killing wife

Ben McLean appears at the High Court in Invercargill. Photo: NZME
Ben McLean appears at the High Court in Invercargill. Photo: NZME

An Invercargill police officer who shot his estranged wife and her new partner may have staged her death to look like a suicide.

Constable Benjamin Peter McLean (48) appeared this morning before the High Court at Invercargill where he forced back tears while entering guilty pleas to murder and attempted murder following the Anzac Day double shooting of 40-year-old Verity McLean and 47-year-old Garry Duggan.

The details of the horrific incident can now be revealed for the first time.

Mrs McLean was found on a couch with a distinctive bruise to her face and a post-mortem revealed nearly 40 other injuries consistent with “a fight or fracas”, the court heard today.

She was killed by a single bullet wound which had entered under her chin.

“Some aspects suggest it may have been staged to resemble a suicide,” a police summary said.

Mr Duggan arrived back at the Otepuni Ave property at 8pm.

When he got out of his vehicle he heard someone say “Garry” and found McLean standing with a .22 rifle at his shoulder pointed directly at him.

The pair had been close friends for 15 years.

The court heard, the defendant had previously sawn off the barrel of the weapon and fit it with a silencer, fixed tight with insulation tape.

McLean shot Mr Duggan in the right upper chest and again in the forearm.

Despite the wounds, the victim grabbed the firearm from his former friend and smashed it over his head, causing the stock to break off.

A violent struggle ensued during which Mr Duggan managed to smash McLean's head into the gravel.

But the defendant responded by pulling out a 50cm wooden baton from a backpack and hitting the man in the forehead.

He put the victim in a “choke hold” but he continued to fight back.

Mr Duggan wrestled the baton from his attacker and beat him over the head while he was being strangled.

After striking him on the knee caps the pair reached a stalemate, sitting in the driveway exhausted.

They argued and Mr Duggan enquired about Mrs McLean.

The defendant claimed she was at a friend's house and soon after fled on the bike on which he had rode to the property.

Police arrived to find Mr Duggan bleeding profusely and Mrs McLean dead inside the house.

Later that evening, McLean called his children telling one of them: “I have f...ed everything. I'm f...ed. I went round and shot and killed Bert [Mrs McLean] and shot Garry . . . I'm on the run”.

He told them: “I've killed her. I don't know why I thought it was a good idea”.

After calling his daughter, her boyfriend and his mother took McLean to the police station to hand himself in.

On the way there the defendant told them: “the kids would hate him forever and he would be inside for at least 20 years”.

Eight days later, Mrs McLean's father visited his daughter's killer while he was in Invercargill prison.

It was “an emotional meeting”, according to the summary of facts, during which the man explained his behaviour.

“She wouldn't talk to me or have anything to do with me and I snapped,” McLean said.

He had been married to the victim for 18 years, according to court documents, and they had three children together.

Before Christmas 2016, the two victims began a relationship together and on April 5 Mrs McLean told her husband she was leaving him and moved to Otepuni Ave with Mr Duggan.

On the day of the bloody incident she had broken into the house to retrieve some of her belongings while her husband was out, the court heard.

Justice Rachel Dunningham remanded the defendant in custody until sentencing on Monday. 

 

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