Ōmanawa double murder trial: Accused said he went along to ‘keep his brother safe’, witnesses claim

A man accused of a double murder told two people he went to the property where the shootings happened with his brother to keep him “safe”, a court has heard.

Samuel Deane Fane, 26, has denied murdering Paul Lasslett, 43, and Nicholas Littlewood, 32, at Lasslett’s Ormsby Lane property in Ōmanawa on February 11 last year.

He is on trial in the High Court at Tauranga with his partner, Sarah-Lee Tarei, 25, who is defending a charge of being an accessory after the fact to the alleged murders.

The Crown alleges Samuel Fane and his late brother Anthony Fane killed the two men but the defence argues Anthony Fane acted alone.

Crown witness Bon-Scott Te Poono, Tarei’s brother, originally told police Samuel Fane confessed to him that he and Anthony Fane carried out the shootings.

Te Poono recanted that comment while giving evidence on Monday and suggested police “made him say” it because they did not like his initial statement.

Sam Wimsett, one of Samuel Fane’s defence lawyers, questioned Te Poono about his movements after his sister and her partner arrived at his home in Christchurch on February 13. Anthony Fane was shot dead by police in Tauranga later that day.

Te Poono confirmed that after the couple’s arrival he popped out to the backyard to smoke a cone of marijuana, but denied also consuming methamphetamine that afternoon.

During further cross-examination today Te Poono said: “Sam told me he had just gone there to keep his brother safe.”

Tarei’s lawyer Dale Dufty also cross-examined Te Poono and when asked about his sister’s demeanour at his house, he confirmed she was in a “happy mood” at first.

Te Poono said his sister and others at the house could not hear him and Samuel Fane talking about the shootings while alone in the spare room.

Tarei was “very upset” when the police arrived and she was still upset when she was brought back to their hotel from the police station, he said.

Crown witness police officer Amy Marshall said she and her partner took charge of Samuel Fane’s custody arrangements after he was arrested on February 14, 2020.

“He was quiet and quite sad … The thing that struck me was that his head was shaved and there was [a] distinctive tattoo on his head,” she said.

Rotorua Detective Sergeant David Harris said on February 14 he travelled to Christchurch with other officers to speak to Samuel Fane about the alleged murders.

“He appeared very dejected and pretty down,” Harris said.

Fane had shaved his head since the shootings and CCTV footage showed Tarei bought some razors at Countdown New Brighton, he said.

Harris said Fane declined to make a statement after he sought guidance from his mother Donna Fane and also sought legal advice.

Harris said he travelled to Papakura on March 10, 2020, to speak to Tarei and told her he wanted to talk to her at Counties Manukau Police Station about the alleged homicides.

After Tarei spoke to a lawyer in the back of a patrol car, she asked to be taken back home if she was not under arrest, he said.

Harris said Tarei was then arrested and charged with being an accessory after the fact.

She declined to make a statement to the police after seeking legal advice.

During questioning by Fane’s other lawyer Simon Lance, Harris confirmed Fane told him he had only gone to the Ormsby Lane to “keep his brother safe”.

Harris also confirmed Fane consented to give a DNA sample after being told he was a suspect in the two homicides.

Fane’s legal advice was not to make a statement to the police, the jury was told.

Crown witness Prem Singh, a fingerprint officer at Hamilton police station, revealed his findings in relation to 16 fingerprint lifts from a car and two firearms.

This included fingerprints on a 12 gauge pump action shotgun seized from Te Poono’s home inside a bag allegedly brought to the property by Fane.

Singh said on the left side of the receiver of the gun was a lower left palm print belonging to Anthony Fane.

Samuel Fane’s fingerprints were also identified on the gun – above the left side of the trigger and on the right side of the firearm.

Four other prints were not identified as belonging to Samuel or Anthony Fane.

Fingerprints found on the cutdown .22 semi-automatic rifle were not identified.

Singh said some of the fingerprint lifts did not contain sufficient information to confirm the person’s identity and three fingerprint lifts on the rifle did not belong to Samuel Fane.

“Whose prints they are remains unidentified,” he said.

The trial continues on Thursday.

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