Tuesday, March 8, 2016


It has been 10 days of painful, and often emotional testimony from witnesses, as they relived the most terrifying moments of their lives, when a masked gunman stormed through the Ashburton Work and Income offices, leaving two women dead and two more seriously injured.

The accused, Russell John Tully, has been absent from the courtroom for much of his trial, despite the fact that he is defending himself.  Judge Mander, who is presiding over the proceedings, ordered Tully removed after two outbursts in which he claimed he was unfit to stand trial, and demanded to know why he was in court.

Although Tully is defending himself, he has had the assistance of two Friends of the Court, experienced criminal lawyers, James Rapley and Phil Shamy, who have remained in court throughout Tully's absences.  Tully elected not to speak in his own defense, which is a little bit disappointing since I'm sure I'm not the only media commentator who wanted to see how he'd react to being on the stand. 

Tully did make it to court for closing arguments today, and although he didn't appear in a wheelchair as he has on past days, he was heavily shackled to prevent him lashing out. 

The Crown's case has been predominantly a circumstantial case, but it's a strong one.  Lets  review the evidence presented...

CCTV footage in the Ashburton CBD shows a man wearing a distinctive jacket and cycle helmet later identified as belonging to Tully.  A man wearing the same clothing is seen entering the WINZ office, and opening fire on staff.  Tully was found in possession of the same jacket when apprehended by police later that day.

Stickers matching those that Tully used to label his possessions were found on the shell casings at the scene.

DNA taken from a black bike helmet and a balaclava left at the scene were matched to Tully, with 5 million percent probability that the DNA was his.

Tully was known to have a grudge against staff at the Ashburton WINZ office and had been trespassed from the office due to his manipulative and intimidating behaviour.  In the weeks leading up to the shooting, he had camped out in the WINZ office for six hours, refusing to leave, and had made numerous threats towards staff over his percieved ill-treatment.

There was a great deal of witness testimony in this trial, as to the events during and just after the shooting, but I have not included a complete overview of those testimonials simply because none of the witnesses gave evidence that the gunman was definitely Russell John Tully.  Most of the witnesses were there to testify to the events inside the WINZ office, and to the behavior of the gunman as he left the office, allowing the Crown to connect that gunman to pieces of physical evidence left behind, which were later linked to Tully. 

The Crown rested by saying that they believed they had proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that Tully was the man who entered the Ashburton WINZ office, armed with a sawn-off shotgun, and brutally murdered two innocent women and attempted to murder two others.  After following the case these last two weeks, I agree.  If I was a juror, I think I'd be pretty convinced by the Crown's case.

There wasn't much Tully's assisting counsel could say in closing, what do you say about a man who's defense strategy seems to be act crazy until you get kicked out of the courtroom?  The jury are now into their second day of deliberations, their first full day since both sides rested yesterday morning.

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