Woman’s desperate call to 111: ‘I just shot my partner’

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A woman who mistakenly shot her partner could have called out to find out who was there, before pulling the trigger, a jury has heard.

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The High Court at Auckland (file image). Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye/ 123rf

Amy Christine Smith is on trial in the High Court at Auckland, charged with murdering Danny Bruce Taylor in April 2019.

Taylor was found dead at a house at South Head on the Kaipara Harbour, a rural area north-west of Auckland.

In his opening address to the jury, Crown prosecutor David Johnstone said Smith would often stay with Taylor on his farm.

In the converted barn where Taylor lived, Johnstone said there was a substantial amount of cannabis, as well as a considerable number of firearms.

Smith thought Taylor was an intruder when she shot him, Johnstone said.

‘I just shot my partner in the arm’

Emergency services had been called to the property after reports of gunfire.

Smith’s six 111 calls in the early hours of 3 April 2019 were played to the jury this afternoon.

She told the call taker she thought Taylor was an intruder and said: “I just shot my partner in the arm.”

During the call, Smith is clearly distressed, and screaming and crying and repeatedly asking what she should do.

Taylor can be heard groaning in the background.

Smith told the call taker Taylor was lying on the floor and that he was conscious and breathing.

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The call taker told Smith to apply pressure to the wound to control the breathing.

At one point she can be heard telling Taylor, “I’m so sorry sweetie”.

The call taker asked Smith what she had shot Taylor with.

She replied, “a 22”.

The call taker asked Smith whether there was somewhere a helicopter could land at the property.

Smith hung up a number of times and each time the call taker called her back to get more details.

Guns were ‘loaded and ready’ – Crown

Johnstone said Smith had not long found out that she and Taylor were the likely targets of a “standover” and she feared the cannabis crop was going to be stolen.

“As Ms Smith put it, they were loaded and ready,” Johnstone said.

On the night Taylor died, Johnstone said Smith had taken some methamphetamine.

“Ms Smith was sleepless and alert to unwanted visitors, and she was also more ready to take action against them.”

Drone shot of Kaipara Harbour with farm land of South Head in foreground, New Zealand

Drone shot of Kaipara Harbour with farm land of South Head in foreground, New Zealand Photo: RNZ/ Brad White

In the early hours, Smith sensed there was an intruder on the property, so she went and got a loaded rifle, Johnstone said.

Once she was holding it, she noticed a person near a set of french doors, but from where she was, she wasn’t able to see what the person was doing, or who it was.

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“But even so, she decided to shoot the person,” Johnstone said.

“Tragically, hers was what might in other circumstances be described as an excellent shot.”

The man – Taylor – didn’t die straight away and Smith heard him yell, “f*** you’ve shot me”, Johnstone said.

“There was no intruder on to Mr Taylor’s farm that night, there was no one there to steal their drugs”

Johnstone said the Crown would argue Smith was guilty of murdering Taylor, even though it’s clear Smith didn’t know when she pulled the trigger, who it was she decided to shoot.

There was no dispute in this case that Smith shot and killed Taylor – Johnstone said soon after it happened, Smith called 111.

Smith’s state of mind at the time she pulled the trigger, and whether she had murderous intent, would be a key issue for the jury when they came to decide their verdict, Johnstone said.

“Amy Smith did not shoot an intruder, she shot Mr Taylor at his own property. She didn’t see him well enough to know who he was, let alone what he was doing.

“If she’d simply asked, ‘why what are you doing?’ Mr Taylor was perfectly able to let her know.”

In his opening address to the jury, defence lawyer Peter Kaye said there was no argument Smith shot Taylor by mistake.

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He said the jury would need to consider whether, when she picked up the gun, she was acting to defend herself and Taylor, or attacking.

Among the other issues they would need to decide were whether the force she used was reasonable, what she was thinking at the time, and whether she intended to cause someone’s death.

The Crown expects to call about 20 witnesses.

The trial, before Justice Peters and a jury of seven women and five men, is set down for two weeks.

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