Juror dismissed as murder trial wraps up

Accused murderer Sandy Graham, and the man accused of being accessory after the fact, George Hyde...
Accused murderer Sandy Graham, and the man accused of being accessory after the fact, George Hyde, sit in the dock at the High Court in Invercargill at the beginning of the trial. PHOTO: KAREN PASCO
A juror has been discharged near the end of a murder trial in Invercargill this morning after his partner tested positive for Covid-19.

On what could potentially be the last day or two of the trial, which began in the High Court in Invercargill on June 13, Justice Gerald Nation this morning addressed the jury panel saying although the man had tested negative, the risk to other jurors was one he wanted to avoid.

“The safer course is to discharge him.

“I’m sure he’s disappointed he can’t carry it through to the end.”

The trial can continue with 11 jurors.

Sandy Maree Graham (32) is charged with Mr Watene’s murder at her home on April 16, 2020.

George Ivor Hyde (25) is accused of accessory after the fact to murder between April 16 and 27, 2020.

Mr Watene was found buried in a shallow grave in the Longwood Forest near Otautau on May 18, 2020.

In closing this morning, Hyde’s lawyer Fiona Guy Kidd, QC, said jurors should not deliberate on what Hyde should have known at the time he disposed of Mr Watene’s body but what he actually knew between April 16 and 27, 2020.

“He did not know that Sandy Graham had killed Dale Watene.

“He believed Sandy Graham when she told him that Dale had shot himself,” she said.

He did not help Graham so she would escape being arrested for murder or manslaughter instead he helped her because she was not allowed firearms as part of her post home-detention conditions, that she would go to jail and that she would lose her children, Mrs Guy Kidd said.

Even though there had been no disclosure from police, she said evidence presented during the trial supported the story Hyde told when he made a confession on September 16, 2020.

She said the pair had been friends for about seven years and he trusted her and he believed the story she told him.

“Graham Hyde wasn’t there when Dale Watene died. He didn’t see what happened, he didn’t see the firearm involved.”

When Hyde arrived and found that Mr Watene had died of a single shot to the mouth, this was consistent with the story Graham was telling him, Mrs Guy Kidd said.

Even during his police interview in September 2020, he was still struggling with the suggestion the story was not as he had been told.

While he knew he had buried a body in the bush, had not treated it properly, and knew it was wrong, he did it to protect himself and Ms Graham regarding the disposal of the body, Mrs Guy Kidd said.

Wilful blindness, where a person does not ask questions as they know what it will reveal, did not apply in this instance, she said.

Hyde was a quiet man by nature, with learning difficulties, who did not like confrontation and who pumped effluent for a living, she said.

He was not a clever manipulator.

Graham had told Hyde that she had been kicked against the cupboards and when they were arguing, Mr Watene had thrown her phone on the roof.

“She told him they got into a fight and he killed himself.”

Mrs Guy Kidd said everyone can be fools, and everyone can be fooled or duped.

“Is it not reasonably possible that Mr Hyde was duped by Ms Graham?”

It was not until after he was arrested in August and told by police that Mr Watene did not kill himself, that Hyde even considered a different version of events.

“Graham Hyde has admitted what he did and that element of assistance is not in doubt.

“But you can not be sure that at the time he assisted Ms Graham that Mr Hyde knew that she had committed murder and you can not be sure that Mr Hyde at the time he helped her, knew that she had killed Mr Watene.”

The judge will begin his summing up at 1pm today.




Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter