Accused ‘suffered psychologically’
Self-defence cited in murder trial
Natalie Akoorie Open Justice — Te Pātiti, a Public Interest Journalism initiative funded through NZ on Air
WARNING: This article discusses suicide and may be upsetting. A.. .. .. .. .. .. s Adrian Phillips sat on a beach near Miranda and prepared to smoke weed, he got a message telling him Bayden Williams was on his way to Thames for tea. Phillips told the High Court at Hamilton he decided to confront the young father on the Kopu-hikuai Rd over a fight they’d been involved in earlier in the year, for which he thought Williams owed him an apology. Phillips is on trial for the murder of his former “mate” Williams, on August 5, 2020. The Crown contends Phillips lay in wait with a sawn-off shotgun for Williams, who he had harboured a grudge against since that altercation seven months earlier. The Crown said Phillips rammed Williams off the road before fatally shooting him and then throwing away the gun and its ammunition. But Phillips’ defence counsel Ron Mansfield, QC, said Phillips had declining mental health when he confronted Williams on the Kopuhikuai Rd that night and the shooting was self-defence. Phillips on Tuesday took the stand for the first time and the court heard he decided to confront Williams when he could speak to him without Williams’s father Lance Williams present. When asked why he didn’t just go to Chloe Randall’s home where Williams was expected for dinner with his ex-girlfriend and their baby son, Phillips said he didn’t want to cause any “dramas“. Earlier in the day the court heard how Phillips bought a gun from a friend in July 2020, through a series of messages read to the jury. The purpose of the gun was to go hunting and “it was an easy way to end my life when I felt the time was right”. Phillips, then an apprentice mechanic, had suffered psychologically since he accidentally set himself alight while pouring accelerant on a bonfire in late December 2018. He had begun to think about suicide daily and was banging his head against walls to relieve the overwhelming feelings of distress. Phillips didn’t have a firearms licence, but said he bought the gun thinking if he could get mentally well again he would use hunting as therapy. He conducted a number of internet searches just days before the alleged murder that were questioned in court, including looking at balaclavas. But Phillips said they came up while he was browsing guns on a hunting website and he didn’t buy one. When asked what he meant when he messaged a friend: “Long barrel for long shot, and sawn-off for being nato”, he answered: “It probably was not a good choice of words but what I meant was rugged hunting in dense bush. Hardcore hunting“. Mansfield pointed out the searches and messages with his friend were all done prior to Phillips realising Williams was getting back together with his girlfriend Chloe Randall, the twin sister of Phillips’ girlfriend Macy Randall. A Facebook post by Chloe describing a happy reunion with Williams and their baby son on August 3 was not seen by Phillips until after he made the internet searches. Earlier in the trial, the Crown said this post was the catalyst for Phillips’ actions on August 5, but on Tuesday Phillips said he thought Williams was out of his life at that point because they had not spoken in six months. Phillips described an altercation that unfolded when he, Chloe and her father Peter Randall went to Williams’ house on January 11, 2020, to retrieve Chloe’s belongings after she and Williams split up. After Williams and then his father Lance Williams arrived, a fight broke out, with Williams senior grabbing Randall in a headlock and strangling him. Phillips said the younger Williams also grabbed him and held him down so that all he could do was watch as Randall was strangled almost to the point of unconsciousness. He told the court the impact of this assault was “huge” on his mental health, which was already in a downward spiral from the bonfire explosion. “It contributed to me not wanting to continue my life.” Phillips had already begun having suicidal thoughts after the accident in which his thighs, chest, arms and hands were badly burned. He admitted to using cannabis regularly after he was burned, to relieve his anxiety. Phillips also admitted the accident and the altercation were humiliating and he was embarrassed by both incidents. “I felt I was unable to protect Peter,” he said of the fight. “I just felt useless.” He was also annoyed when police took no action and he believed Williams owed him an apology. Before the January 2020 altercation, he had been mates with Williams with he and Macy visiting Williams and Chloe regularly. But he became aware of problems between Chloe and Williams, who had a baby by late 2019. “I [understood] they were having big arguments and that he was hitting her and she was unhappy with him drinking too much. It broke my heart.” He said Chloe was like a sister to him and he was concerned at the situation but said it was none of his business. The court also heard that Williams drove during the first national lockdown and frightened Macy while out driving together when he “flipped out” and drove dangerously and at speed, telling her he would run them both off the road. He then pulled up at a beach and sobbed “like a giant heartbroken baby”. Phillips said he was having a breakdown. He was worried he might “lose control” and physically hurt her, which he did once when she put a gaslight in front of his face, because it was “triggering”. Phillips¯was born in Te Ku¯iti and raised in Otorohanga until the age of about 10, when his parents — both deaf — split up and he moved with his mother to a village near Thames. His father and sister stayed in Otorohanga. ¯ Phillips said he was bullied at school for being overweight and having red hair. He later attended Hauraki Plains College where he was suspended for fighting.