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Man accused of splitting partner’s lip says his goat did it

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The jury did not buy the goat explanation.

WARNING: This article discusses serious domestic violence and may be distressing.

A man accused of a decade of violence towards his partner says at least one of her injuries was caused by a headbutt from his pet goat.

But a jury wasn’t buying his explanation.

Shane Screen, 61, was today found guilty on six of 11 domestic violence-related charges he faced in a trial at the Tauranga District Court, including a charge related to his partner’s split lip, which he said his goat caused.

Screen was found guilty on the most serious charges, including two of strangulation and one of threatening to kill. He earlier pleaded guilty to a charge related to pushing his partner around.

In Screen’s evidence, he said he hadn’t caused a split lip to Christine Prebble; the goat had headbutted the 67-year-old instead.

“That’s the only one I can remember,” he said, claiming he couldn’t recall most of her injuries.

The split lip incident happened some years before things finally came to a head on August 14, 2021.

The court heard how Prebble and Screen argued over “silly things”. He got angry, pushed her around, struck her with a piece of wood and locked her out of the house.

He admitted pushing her out, but denied striking her with wood.

After she made a police report, she returned to the property to get some belongings and said Screen closed a roller garage door on her, causing bruising, before threatening to kill her and smothering her with a t-shirt.

In evidence given in court, Screen accepted the garage door came down on Prebble, but said it was because she tried to crawl under it as it was closing.

The defence said Prebble must have caused the bruises to herself before she photographed them some days after the alleged incident.

The jury, however, found Screen guilty on all charges related to this incident.

‘Are you ready to die?’

Prebble said she went into her study and Screen came in with “eyes bulging out” and “making animal noises” before he pushed her face into a rolled-up t-shirt and onto the armrest of a chaise lounge.

She told a police interviewer he said: “Are you ready to die? This is it, I’m going to do it”.

In opening the case, the Crown said this incident was the “last straw” for the woman, who then made a full report of allegations dating back a decade.

Screen’s evidence in court was that most of the injuries never happened.

Those that Prebble sought medical attention for had innocent explanations, he said, and he pointed to the reasons she gave at the time.

But Prebble said in evidence in court and to police, that she had lied to medical professionals because she was trying to cover up the violence. She’d lied about a broken arm she received from blocking a punch – she told a doctor she tripped in the garden.

The defendant said in his evidence that he was in Auckland at the time of that injury and when he returned, she didn’t tell him how she had broken her arm.

The jury found Screen guilty on a charge related to that injury.

The jury acquitted him on a charge related to a black eye caused by a flying coffee mug, however.

Prebble said she remembered being hit in the eye, but couldn’t recall the mug being actually being thrown, just that it hit her and smashed.

Screen said he had been carrying the mug while holding a newspaper in his other hand and had flicked it off his finger to release it, and it bounced off the verandah and up to her eye level.

In his closing address earlier today, defence lawyer Gerald McArthur told the jury they shouldn’t “write off” that “unusual” explanation.

He also said his client shouldn’t have to “wear the uncertainty” at play because the alleged offences had happened so long ago.

The charges Screen was acquitted on related to incidents where Prebble hadn’t been able to recall specific details, and where there hadn’t been medical evidence.

Crown prosecutor Larissa Mulder put to the defendant during cross-examination, that it was pretty “unlucky” for Prebble to have suffered so many injuries during the time the pair was together.

“I feel pretty unlucky that I’ve got a 65-year-old woman who’s shooting meth up her arm, so yeah, sorry,” Screen responded.

The Crown said the complainant denied using methamphetamine but, putting that to one side, her evidence had been consistent and reliable, even if some of the details had been lost over time.

Mulder said Prebble’s evidence was, in some instances, supported by medical evidence, but it would be the jury’s common sense that would be useful in assessing the evidence.

Screen is on bail ahead of sentencing.


How to get help:

If you’re in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you.

• Run outside and head for where there are other people. Scream for help so your neighbours can hear you.

• Take the children with you. Don’t stop to get anything else.

• If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. Violence is never okay.

Where to go for help or more information:’ target=’_blank’>Women’s Refuge: Crisis line – 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 (available 24/7)’ target=’_blank’>Shine: Helpline – 0508 744 633 (available 24/7)’ target=’_blank’>It’s Not Ok: Family violence information line – 0800 456 450’ target=’_blank’>Shakti: Specialist services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and children.

• Crisis line – 0800 742 584 (available 24/7) violence/’ target=’_blank’>Ministry of Justice: For information on family violence’ target=’_blank’>Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga: National Network of Family Violence Services’ target=’_blank’>White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men’s violence towards women.

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Hannah Bartlett is a Tauranga-based Open Justice reporter at NZME. She previously covered court and local government for the Nelson Mail, and before that was a radio reporter at Newstalk ZB.

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