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Kopu murder trial: Accused Adrian Phillips felt like there’d been ‘no justice’ after earlier fight

Adrian Phillips in the High Court at Hamilton on Tuesday. Photo / Mike Scott A man who stopped for a toilet break...

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Adrian Phillips in the High Court at Hamilton on Tuesday. Photo / Mike Scott

A man who stopped for a toilet break on the side of the Kopu-Hikuai Rd became instantly suspicious upon hearing gunshots.

Michael Martin, who was travelling with his nephew Cameron Brown, knew it was the sound of a 12-gauge and thought it odd for it to be fired in that area in the dark on the night of August 5, 2020.

“That’s when I said to [Cameron Brown], let’s write it down,” meaning the time, which was 6.45pm.

They then carried on driving and around the corner saw a ute parked facing the wrong way on the side of the road, with its headlights pointed towards them.

“It was just in an odd spot. I just thought it was odd.”

Asked what he said to Brown, “I said don’t stop”.

“I just looked weird. I said someone else will stop.”

Brown recalled hearing the gun shot and how Martin likened it to that of a 12-gauge.

He said Martin got immediately suspicious.

“It was odd for the time that it was … shooting that gun at that time of the night in the dark.”

They then came upon the Mazda Bounty ute and he saw someone dart in the bushes.

He described him as being about 183cm, pakeha, wearing ‘farm kind of clothes” including a plaid shirt, shorts and work boots.

As they drove past he noticed a gap in the bush, near where the ute was parked, which looked also unusual, he said.

‘I thought he was joking’

Earlier, Jonathan Taylor, a friend of the accused, Adrian Phillips, told the High Court at Hamilton he thought Phillips was “just joking” about confronting Bayden Williams.

Taylor sold Phillips the old, rusted sawn-off shotgun he found in Kawhia some time ago. Phillips used that weapon to shoot Williams three times after ramming his vehicle off the Kopu-Hikuai Rd on August 5, 2020.

Asked by Crown prosecutor Rebecca Mann what Phillips had said about Williams, Taylor said “just about how he wanted to give him a hiding”.

Taylor confirmed that he’d mentioned doing that “about three or four times” after a fight in January 2020 involving the father of his girlfriend and Williams’ father, Lance.

Phillips had earlier told Taylor he was going to use it “for shooting pigs off the road”.

When asked about what “being nato” meant, when talking about sawn-off guns with Phillips, he said “just nuts”.

“Just being nuts. Crazy.”

Bayden Williams was shot dead by his former friend Adrian Phillips. However, Phillips claims he shot him in self defence. Photo / File
Bayden Williams was shot dead by his former friend Adrian Phillips. However, Phillips claims he shot him in self defence. Photo / File

He also confirmed receiving Snapchat images from Phillips less than an hour before Williams was shot; of the shotgun and a splitting axe in the footwell of his ute.

Taylor replied saying, “true cuz you going over there”.

Phillips then sent a second image also including either four or six rounds of ammunition, to which he replied, “what are you up to?”.

Phillips then replied how he’d heard Williams was driving over the Kopu-Hikuai Rd.

“I didn’t respond to that one I think, thinking it was just a joke … I didn’t think he was going to do it.”

After hearing about an incident on the Kopu-Hikuai, he messaged Phillips saying, “you ok. shit going up on FB”.

He then called him just after 9pm and spoke with his girlfriend, as Phillips was on the phone to police at the time.

In questioning from defence counsel Ron Mansfield, he confirmed that sawn-off shotguns were handy for pig hunting partly because they were handy in compact bush.

He also said Phillips had been looking for a gun to use for hunting for quite some time.
Put to him that balaclavas and beanies were commonly used by pig hunters, Taylor agreed before stating, “I haven’t seen too many pig hunters wear balaclavas though”.

Mansfield put to him that there was a lot of “banter” shared between the two of them, and which was shown in the more than 400 messages between the period of March and August 5.

‘He felt there was no justice’

Paula Randall, the mother of Adrian Phillips’ former girlfriend, spoke yesterday about how his mental health had deteriorated after accidentally burning himself in a New Year’s bonfire in 2018.

Phillips had poured alcohol on the bonfire with the aim of getting it going when it exploded, leaving him with severe burns and months of hospital treatment.

However, she began noticing further changes in Phillips’ behaviour after a fight in January 2020 involving Bayden Williams, Lance Williams, Phillips, and Chloe Randall’s father.

Chloe Randall told the court yesterday she was horrified at seeing her father being strangled so hard that he lost control of his bodily functions. She said Phillips had tried to help get Williams’ father, Lance, off him but was pulled off by the younger Williams.

“Adrian, after the incident … became frustrated by the lack of what he would have recognised to be the injustice and unfairness of the incident,” Paula Randall told the court.

“Adrian feels like … not enough has been done to bring justice for [her husband], mostly Lance [Williams], about the way that he had assaulted [her husband].

“He didn’t understand why the police hadn’t followed up.”

She exchanged several messages with Phillips two days leading up to the shooting, stating she didn’t want him wanting to beat him up.

“I don’t want you to beat anyone up. I don’t want you in trouble,” she texted Phillips.

She said while Phillips was “very distressed” about that January fight, she had “no inkling” that it would lead to what happened.

On the night of Williams’ death, she recalled Chloe coming home early from dinner, initially believing Williams had stood her up.

But as the Facebook posts increased, she then decided to go to Phillips’ Ngatea house.

However, on arrival, “we couldn’t even get into the street”.

In questioning from defence counsel Ron Mansfield, Randall agreed Phillips was not someone to talk about himself.

“He’s very quiet and self-conscious.”

She also confirmed that his sister and her daughter, who was going out with him at the time, had tried to get ACC assistance so he could get help for his mental health struggles resulting from the fire.

Adrian Phillips pictured before the fatal shooting in August 2020. Photo / Supplied
Adrian Phillips pictured before the fatal shooting in August 2020. Photo / Supplied

Randall said Phillips wasn’t a fighter, “not to my knowledge”.

“Even if it did get to that point it would just be to get some frustration out and that would be it.”

‘A little bit erratic’

Bayden Williams’ former girlfriend, Chloe Randall, told the High Court at Hamilton how murder accused Adrian Phillips seemed to change after a fight at their flat seven months before the shooting when she went to get her belongings.

The 22-year-old explained how all four of them, including her sister and Phillips, used to get on, but after a fight in January 2020 he started behaving “a little bit erratic”.

“We would spend less time together. He was just elsewhere. But we were always good.

“Bayden and Adrian were really good friends at the time and it was just after what me and Bayden went through, Adrian didn’t like that.

“He was protecting me.”

Mansfield questioned her about the physical and psychological violence she’d suffered at the hands of Williams.

“He started to manhandle me, but each time it would get worse,” she said.

“He would shove me into a wall. He punched me with my son in my arms. He tried to take my son after drinking half a bottle of bourbon and ripped my dress off me.”

The trial, before Justice Melanie Harland, is set down for two weeks.

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