DNA evidence and analysis of cellphone records would link Liam James Reid to sex attacks in both Christchurch and Dunedin, the crown told a jury at the opening of Reid’s trial on murder, attempted murder, and sexual violation charges.
Crown prosecutor Pip Currie said the focus of the month-long trial before Justice Lester Chisholm and a jury in the High Court at Christchurch would be on identity.
Her opening address today cited a range of factors linking 36-year-old Reid to both attacks, in which Christchurch woman Emma Agnew was killed and a 21-year-old Dunedin student was strangled and left for dead in a car park.
The crown will call evidence from 106 witnesses in the trial where Reid denies charges of raping and murdering Agnew, and raping, sexually violating, attempting to murder, and robbing the Dunedin woman.
Currie said Agnew, 20, was profoundly deaf and worked for the Deaf Association and was a bar person at the Deaf Club.
On November 15, 2007, she went to the association’s offices and called at a friend’s house. She had for sale signs in the windows of her car, with her cellphone number. Later, she did not turn up for a scheduled meeting.
Her body was found beneath foliage near Spencer Park by someone walking a dog almost two weeks later.
She was naked and her clothes had not been found. Her upper airway had been obstructed by a sock forcibly stuffed into the back of her throat. There was deep bruising to the side of her neck and a deep genital bruise likely caused by being kicked or punched, said Currie.
She said crown witnesses would identify Reid in a car in the area.
She also said Miss Agnew’s car was found in Bromley Park that night after an attempt had been made to set it on fire. Reid’s fingerprint was found on the outside of the vehicle, and a hair linked to him by DNA testing was found on a pillow inside.
Cellphone records would show that Reid’s cellphone and Miss Agnew’s were both in the same area of central Christchurch, and then went to Spencer Park north of the city, and then came back into town. The crown would allege Agnew was dead by then and that Reid had probably contacted her through the cellphone number on her car.
Reid travelled to Nelson where witnesses would say he sought passage to Australia among boaties. He told boat-owners he planned to swim ashore in Australia because he had no passport and was in trouble with the police.
He then returned to Christchurch by bus and met his girlfriend. They stayed a night at Spencer Park Motor Camp where Miss Agnew’s body lay undiscovered nearby.
On November 22, he hitchhiked to Dunedin and the crown would say he met his victim in the street late the next night. He was at first friendly, but then his mood changed and he attacked her, dragging her by the hair and forcing her into bushes next to a carpark.
There the crown alleges he threatened to kill her, put a rope around her neck which he would pull tight, raped her and sexually violated her, and repeatedly punched her. The woman would give evidence that she was also punched in the genital area.
He told the woman he had raped someone before and killed someone.
After he allowed her to dress, the attacker became upset when he could not find the rope he had used. He attacked the woman again and manually strangled her unconscious and the crown says he left her for dead.
The crown says Reid’s DNA was later found on the rope and the Dunedin woman’s blood was found on his shoes when he was arrested in Christchurch about two days later.
The DNA evidence was described as “very strong” by the scientists.