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Jury retires in kidnapping trial

Halayna Wagstaff died in a crash on the outskirts of Te Puke in 2018.

A jury has retired in the trial of a man accused of the kidnapping and assault on his girlfriend who later died in a crash in the Bay of Plenty.

Jason Whetu Anaru-Emery, 19, had been on trial in the High Court in Hamilton charged with the kidnapping and assault of his then girlfriend Halayna Wagstaff, 17. 

Halayna died when the car the pair were in crashed into Waiari Bridge, and down a bank, on the outskirts of Te Puke on July 21, 2018. 

Anaru-Emery was also previously charged with manslaughter but that charge was dismissed on Tuesday by Justice Sarah Katz based on the lack of evidence.

She said in light of all the evidence, in particular from the ESR, it was her view that a properly "directed jury could not find that Mr Anaru-Emery is the driver of the fatal crash without reasonable doubt". 

The Crown alleged that Anaru-Emery had assaulted Wagstaff at his home in Paengaroa and later taken her against her will before the car crashed that wintry night. 

'He pushed her in'

In closing Crown Solicitor Anna Pollett told the jury that a witness gave a "full and frank" account of Halayna being assaulted by Anaru-Emery at his home. Raw CCTV footage shows Halayna was detained against her will and cannot be disputed, she said. 

Halayna's friend Manaia Gourlay did not get it wrong when she described Anaru-Emery as grabbing Halayna around the neck and throwing her around the room and on the bed.  

"This was the start of the defendant's aggressive conduct on July 21. It is consistent with what we see the defendant do on the CCTV footage after the party."

These were actions of an angry and jealous partner, Pollett said. 

"The defence may say Manaia Gourlay cannot be relied upon. She was stoned."

"Although she was stoned, she gave a "frank" account and was able to recall what occurred."

When it comes to the kidnapping the CCTV footage cannot be disputed, Pollett told the jury. 

Halayna was hindered in her movements - that is being detained by law, Pollett said. It was more than a trifling moment.

"The defendant held her and dragged her from the roadside of Jellicoe Street, across the opposing lane, across the grass median and the front of Toni Billing's vehicle.

"This CCTV footage could not be clearer. What you see is a woman who stopped for the sole purpose of retreating from that vehicle."

The defence argued the pair were "jogging" across the road. 

"There is no evidence of them jogging, Pollett said. 

Witnesses, who were reliable and sober, described seeing Halayna be pushed into the vehicle. She was resisting.

In closing defence counsel Andrew Dawson argued that there was no way the jury could say beyond reasonable doubt that Anaru-Emery had assaulted Halayna or kidnapped her that night. 

"This is what it looks like when the Crown case falls apart. The judge has taken the most serious charge from you."

There was only one person who saw the alleged assault, he said, and she was "wrong". 

What Gourlay wants to remember has been tainted by the death of her good friend later in the night. She'd drunk bourbon, had 20 cones of cannabis and later a shot and KGBs.

"You simply cannot rely on what she said. 

It was obvious something was happening in the car when the pair stopped on Jellicoe St, Dawson said. Halayna was "mad" and not acting like her usual self. 

He contended the pair were "jogging" across the road. 

"The footage doesn't show her being bungled into the car and there is no illegal detention. You would expect to see her fighting more along the way."

In summarising the case, Justice Katz said it was the Crown's job to prove Anaru-Emery was guilty.

She urged the jury not to be influenced by sympathy or prejudice.

Did Anaru-Emery grab Halayna Wagstaff, throw her around the bedroom and onto the bed?

"Any one of these things done without consent would be assault."

When it came to the kidnapping charge, Justice Katz said the jury needed to decide whether Anaru-Emery took away or detained Wagstaff purposely. 

For the actions to amount to kidnapping they must be more than trifling. Anaru-Emery must have known Wagstaff did not consent to being taken, and having regard to that Anaru-Emery's actions were unreasonable. 

"Are you sure when taking away or detaining Miss Wagstaff, Anaru-Emery caused Halayna to be confined?"

The jury has retired.

 -Stuff/Phillipa Yalden.

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