Murder trial hears of repeated police searches

Police conducted three searches of the addresses of both murder-accused Sandy Graham (32) and the man charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder, Graham Hyde (24), during their almost four-month investigation into the killing of Dale Watene.

Evidence was also gathered from radio access network (RAN) data obtained through phones as well as surveillance monitoring (bugging) at Graham’s address, jurors heard yesterday as the trial before Justice Gerald Nation in the High Court at Invercargill continued.

It is alleged Mr Watene (40) was murdered at Graham’s Otautau home on April 16, and Hyde is accused of aiding in disposing of the body between April 16 and 27.

At the start of the trial last week, Graham’s counsel Sarah Saunderson-Warner said Mr Watene had been shot at Graham’s home but it was not done on purpose or with murderous intent.

Through counsel Fiona Guy Kidd QC, Hyde admitted he disposed of the body, but said he did not know Mr Watene had been murdered.

On Tuesday, Detective Dougall Henderson said police first came across the Longwood Forest site of Mr Watene’s shallow grave on May 1, finding it covered in bricks, mortar, tin flashings, a car tyre, rusty bin and wallpaper.

At the time they believed someone had just dumped the material there.

Volunteer searchers alerted police to the same area on May 16, 2020, saying the ground at the site was soft.

However, a police dog with cadaver training did not detect the presence of a body, he said.

Knowing Hyde had bricks, mortar and roof flashings at his property, police decided to go back to the site to investigate further on May 18, 2020.

Yesterday, Det Henderson told the court that at 2.14pm on May 18, Detective Sergeant Dave Kennelly unearthed what appeared to be a bare human foot less than 30cm under the surface.

"We gently removed sufficient soil and clay from around the foot to ensure that what we located was definitely a foot and not an animal part," he said.

A forensic examination of the site was carried out two days later and the body was exhumed.

Detective Matthew Wyatt said Mr Watene’s body was taken from the grave site on May 20, police iwi staff performing a Maori blessing before the body was taken to a funeral home then the Christchurch mortuary.

A lead projectile was removed from the top of Mr Watene’s spine at the postmortem on May 22, 2020, and various measurements of his arm lengths were taken.

Yesterday, details were given about the three searches of Hyde and Graham’s properties, which took place on May 6 and 27 and August 4, 2020.

Detective Scott Mackenzie said luminol testing at Graham’s house on May 27 revealed blood in the hallway.

Carpet, underlay, floorboards and underfloor Bats from the hallway, where they believed blood had pooled, were uplifted for further forensic testing.

At the search at Graham’s house on August 4, police found a folder with two sketches in it, one of Mr Watene with the dates 15/04/80 to 20/05/20 on it, he said.

Detective Graeme King said vehicles, bricks, mortar, wallpaper, firearms, ammunition and digging implements were among the items police were looking for at Hyde’s address on May 27, after the body was found.

Detective Alun Griffiths yesterday presented a timeline of movements for Mr Watene, Graham and Hyde from April 16-17.

The evidence showed when calls, Snapchats and messages were received as well as giving inferred locations of where police believed the three had been based on radio access network data.

The trial continues tomorrow.

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