Taranaki farm worker murder: Jodie Hughes’ trial witness says she heard female yell ‘Kill him’

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Jodie Shannon Hughes is on trial in the High Court at New Plymouth for the murder of Taranaki farmworker Jacob Ramsay. Photo / Tara Shaskey

On the evening a farm worker was beaten, tied to a car and dragged to his death, a woman from the rural area claims she heard the violence play out and a female at the scene ordering his death.

Gasps were heard in the public gallery of the High Court at New Plymouth when the woman revealed in evidence she had heard the words “kill him”.

She was giving her testimony on Tuesday at the trial of young mother Jodie Shannon Hughes who has been accused of murdering Jacob Mills Ramsay on July 29 last year.

Hughes, 31, was charged alongside William Candy, her partner, and Ethan Webster who have both admitted to killing the Taranaki father of three and were sentenced to life imprisonment in March.


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The witness, who has interim name suppression, said on the morning of Ramsay’s death she and her husband, who also gave evidence, had been warned by a local farm worker to “lock everything up tonight because there’s going to be trouble”.

They were told Ramsay, 33, was a druggie and owed people from Te Kuiti money and those people would be coming “to deal to him”.

When that night the woman saw a car going slowly down the Kina Rd tanker track and heard yelling and a repeated “thud”, she believed something was amiss and listened intently.

The woman, who was visibly distressed while giving evidence in court, said she heard three voices.


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She could not identify who they belonged to but said they sounded excited and hyper.

One voice, which had a female pitch, yelled “Kill him”, the woman told the court.

Ramsay was killed by his co-workers, William Candy and Ethan Webster. Photo / Supplied
Ramsay was killed by his co-workers, William Candy and Ethan Webster. Photo / Supplied

Under cross-examination, defence lawyer Tiffany Cooper, KC, reminded the woman she had previously told police she had heard the words, “I’m going to kill him”.

Cooper said the police statement was given only days after Ramsay’s death and so suggested it would be a more accurate recollection than her evidence in trial, one year on.

The woman was sure she heard the words “kill him” but could not be certain of any additional words.

Cooper said a man present at the attack reported Webster, then 18, was “yelling and screaming”.

She suggested, given he was a “young person coming into manhood”, that the person who yelled “kill him” was actually Webster.

But the woman rejected the notion, saying the pitch was higher than what you would expect from a teenage boy.

Under re-examination, Crown prosecutor Cherie Clarke asked the woman if she had heard the voice that said “kill him” at any other time during that night.

“No,” she responded.


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It was not people from Te Kuiti who took to Ramsay that evening, as anticipated by the witnesses. He was killed at the hands of fellow farm workers Candy and Webster.

Webster (left) and Candy admitted the murder of Ramsay and were sentenced in March. Photo / Tara Shaskey
Webster (left) and Candy admitted the murder of Ramsay and were sentenced in March. Photo / Tara Shaskey

The pair had beef with Ramsay over money he owed and on the day of his death, Candy gave him a beating at the Oakura cemetery before forcing him into Hughes’ vehicle and taking him back to the Oaonui, South Taranaki, dairy farm at which they all worked and lived in separate farmhouses.

At the Kina Rd farm, the attack by Candy continued and Webster also jumped in and delivered a number of blows and stomps to an unconscious Ramsay’s head.

Candy then chained Ramsay to the back of a car by his ankle and he and Webster dragged him for almost 1km along a gravel track.

His body was dumped into a rubbish pit at the farm and he was found dead two days later by his employer.

At the outset of the trial, Hughes pleaded guilty to kidnapping Ramsay and the burglary of his home but maintained her not-guilty pleas of wounding him with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) and to murder.


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The Crown alleges that while Hughes did not physically harm Ramsay, she was “very much” involved in Candy’s violence towards him, making her a party to the GBH and murder.

But Cooper said her client had no idea the beating meted out by the men would progress to the deadly level that it did.

The jury has heard Hughes was allegedly so “angry” with Ramsay’s failure to repay her and Candy the $150 he was loaned that she decided to take matters into her own hands.

She broke into his home and stole his TV and then allegedly implored Candy to help get their money back.

Hughes drove him to Oakura where the attack on Ramsay began, helped detain him on the ride back to the farm, and has been accused of encouraging the violence, smiling as it played out and stopping a person from trying to intervene.

Other witnesses called on Tuesday included Candy’s son, Taylor Candy, who said the energy at the home of his father and Hughes was “off” and “down” in the wake of Ramsay’s death, and the man who witnessed the assault at the Oakura cemetery.


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The farmhouse Ramsay was living in at the time of his death. Photo / Tara Shaskey
The farmhouse Ramsay was living in at the time of his death. Photo / Tara Shaskey

Following the opening yesterday, the first of the Crown’s 29 witnesses were called.

A woman known to Hughes, who has interim name suppression, said Hughes had been in a relationship with Candy for around four years and described it as “up and down”.

Hughes and her two children had lived at the farm for around two years and Candy was “awesome” with the youngsters, the woman said.

Following the death of Ramsay, Hughes told the woman a body had been found on the farm but didn’t offer any details, saying she didn’t know anything.

But in the following days when Candy was arrested, she began to open up and told the woman “he didn’t do it”.

When Hughes was arrested 10 days later, the woman said Hughes claimed she was innocent.


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“She said she didn’t do it and it wasn’t fair and she was just really upset.”

Under cross-examination, Cooper asked the woman to speak to what she earlier told police about Hughes’ upbringing and personal struggles.

Those included that she had endured an “abusive” childhood which the woman claimed had resulted in Hughes’ ongoing issues with communication and her becoming quick to anger when frustrated.

She had struggled with mental health issues, had a history of drug use, and a tendency to involve herself with men who treated her poorly, the woman said in evidence.

Candy was the first to treat her well, she said.

The trial continues on Wednesday and is set down for two weeks.


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Tara Shaskey joined NZME in 2022 as a news director and Open Justice reporter. She has been a reporter since 2014 and previously worked at Stuff where she covered crime and justice, arts and entertainment, and Māori issues.

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