Lies woven into stories, Crown says

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
It did not take long for a murder accused to decide she was going to cover up the death of a man who was shot at her home in Otautau on April 16, 2020, a jury heard yesterday.

Sandy Maree Graham (32) is charged with Dale Watene’s murder.

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

Mr Watene died of a fatal shotgun wound which travelled through his mouth and became embedded in his spinal cord. A pathologist told the court last week it was likely he died instantly.

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

A jury trial before Justice Gerald Nation began in the High Court at Invercargill on June 13.

In closing yesterday, Crown solicitor Mary-Jane Thomas said Graham told her first lie at 9.45pm on the day Mr Watene was shot.

After texting Otautau policeman Constable Nigel Watkinson earlier in the evening to see if he was on duty she texted him again later to tell him everything was OK and that her family were tucked up. From then on the lies continued, Ms Thomas said.

"To call Sandy Graham a liar does her a disservice.

"She’s not simply a liar, she’s a storyteller. She weaves together fact and fiction and creates stories with a hint of truth peppered with untruths that support her narrative."

Ms Thomas said there was evidence the jury needed to revisit during its deliberations.

It included evidence which pointed to the Ruger rifle having its magazine attached at the time of Mr Watene’s death.

The convoluted story about Graham driving Mr Watene’s truck away, leaving her children with Mr Watene after he she said he punched and kicked her, and the evidence she gave about her and Mr Watene wrestling over a gun, which they both knew was unloaded, was untrue.

Scientific evidence showed that Mr Watene did not have the rifle in his mouth at the time of the shooting. Instead it proved the muzzle was likely to be no less than 80cm to 1m away from him at the time he was shot, she said.

She said there was no question Hyde knew what he was doing when he helped bury Mr Watene and the reason Hyde did not question why they were burying a man Graham had said committed suicide, was because he already knew she had murdered him, she said.

Defence lawyer for Graham, Philip Shamy, said it was hard to convey the emotion involved in a domestic violence situation.

"It is very easy to say why didn’t you call police? Why didn’t you text your friend? Why didn’t you take the children and run off with them?"

Graham had not said who pulled the trigger of the firearm that killed Mr Watene because she did not know, Mr Shamy said.

There was nothing in the Crown’s evidence to suggest she had taken a firearm and murdered Mr Watene and just because someone lied it did not mean they had committed murder.

He said while jurors might think it abhorrent that she took her children to go and dig the grave with Hyde, she was petrified Oranga Tamariki would take her children from her.

"But I think with a firearm, a body in the hallway and two little kids in the bedroom you would stand a relatively good chance with Oranga Tamariki, of losing your children."

Graham got herself stuck, like molasses, in lies but they were lies born in panic, Mr Shamy said.

Hyde’s lawyer Fiona Guy Kidd, QC, will give her closing address and Justice Nation will sum up the case tomorrow.





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