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Police detail crime scene investigation in murder trial

Thursday 13 June 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Court, National

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Police detail crime scene  investigation in murder trial
Police said they were instructed to secure the crime scene and obtain details of all who were present. SUPPLIED/COOK ISLANDS POLICE/24061217

A Cook Islands police team who was part of an alleged murder investigation in 2023 testified at the High Court in Avarua yesterday.

Metuamoetai Takaitu is charged with murdering his 29-year-old stepson following an argument at his home in May last year.

Takaitu is represented by defence lawyer Lavi Rokoika and assisted by lawyer Tevita Tangaroa Vakalalabure. The Crown prosecutors are Jamie Crawford assisted by Lucinda Rishworth.

The jury trial entered day three yesterday in the presence of Chief Justice Patrick Keane.

The police officers involved in the investigation including detectives from the Criminal Investigations Bureau (CIB) gave evidence on behalf of Crown Law.

Police said they were instructed to secure the crime scene and obtain details of all who were present.

Also read:

> Murder accused remanded, police probe continues

> Murder accused bailed to relative’s house

> Not cold-blooded’: Stepfather claims self-defence in stabbing

> Aorta injury confirmed as cause of death in murder trial   

> Stepson’s attack triggered self-defence, says accused

A probationary constable with three years on the force read his deposition to the jury. He stated that he was on the night shift on May 13th when they were informed of a stabbing in Tutakimoa.

He described arriving at the scene and seeing a body covered in a blue sheet next to the driveway. A woman was sitting beside the body, he told the court. He was informed that the body had two stab wounds, one in the middle and another on the left side of the chest.

A constable with eight years of experience referred to his notes taken on that night. He said he arrived at the scene with the probationary constable and the funeral director at around 8.38pm.

The constable said he was advised of the deceased’s name and he asked the woman sitting beside the body, later identified as the deceased’s sister, to move so he could take photographs.

He took photo of a pair of scissors and secured it in the car. He saw two stab wounds on the deceased’s chest.

The constable said the detective arrived, and together they went to speak with the accused who was sitting outside. Around 9.05pm, the constable recounted that the detective questioned the accused in Maori about what happened. The accused replied that the deceased hit him with a chair, prompting him to grab a knife and stab the deceased.

The accused was then cautioned. When asked where the knife was, he identified it as a white kitchen knife with blood on it, located on the table.

The knife was then photographed and secured.

Reading further from his notes, the constable said the accused claimed the deceased threw the tomatoes out of the freezer, turned off the light, and hit him with a chair. The accused then grabbed a knife from the table and stabbed him. He also mentioned the deceased had a pair of scissors but denied knowing where the deceased obtained them.

The head of the Police CIB unit said he was informed the family was uncooperative with the police. He, along with the constable, found the acussed seated on a chair outside a tent area, holding a blood-soaked shirt to his head. The deceased’s mother was seated on the other side of a table.

He told the court in response to Crown Law’s questions that he saw empty bottles (beers) next to the accused.

A detective senior sergeant with over 20 years of experience was questioned by defence lawyer Rokoika about the lack of photographs from inside the house. The detective explained that it was dark at the time, and they were unable to take any photographs.

Rokoika then pointed out that a previous constable mentioned being advised to freeze the scene until the investigation was complete. She questioned why the scene wasn’t cordoned off for the entire night.

The detective replied that they decided to complete what they could that night and planned to resume at 9am the next day.

Rokoika further inquired if the family cleaned up the scene overnight. The detective sergeant confirmed that the family cleaned up the bloodstains.

Crown Law’s Crawford asked if any blood stains remained and were they covered. The detective sergeant replied that gravel and soil were placed over the area.