Prosecutors share Constable Matthew Hunts last moments as trial begins

Unarmed and realising he had just gotten out of his patrol vehicle to face off with a man holding a semi-automatic military-style rifle, Officer David Goldfinch could only think to yell out a few words before diving for cover.

“F***ing stop, bro!” he shouted, Crown prosecutors recounted today as the jury trial began for Eli Bob Sauni Epiha.

Epiha, 25, didn’t stop. Ten bullets followed, hitting the officer four times as he ran away. Epiha then turned fire on Constable Matthew Hunt, killing him with four shots from behind, Crown prosecutor Alysha McClintock said during her opening statement.

The defendant, 25, is on trial for attempted murder of Constable Goldfinch, whose name was made public today for the first time since the June 2020 shooting. Goldfinch survived the shooting.

Jurors also learned today that Epiha pleaded guilty last week to the murder of Constable Hunt and to recklessly causing the injury of a bystander who was hurt in a car crash as Epiha fled police.

During the Crown’s opening statement, jurors were played two videos. In the first — stationary CCTV footage focusing on a nearby backyard — a car crash, screams then 14 loud gunshot blasts could be heard.

“It shows a level of persistence and determination that demonstrates what was in Mr Epiha’s mind,” McClintock told jurors, explaining that only 10 seconds elapsed between when Goldfinch was shot at 10 times and Hunt was fired on four times.

“It is hard to imagine a clearer demonstration of Mr Epiha’s intention that day. It really does take you as close to the inside of his mind as you can get.”

The second video shown to jurors — cellphone footage taken by a witness moments after the shots — showed Constable Hunt lying motionless in the street as co-defendant Natalie Jane Bracken got into the driver’s side of another car and Epiha, with two guns slung over his shoulders, took the passenger seat.

That morning started inconspicuously as Hunt and Goldfinch parked a marked car on the side of the road, on traffic duty. When Epiha’s car aroused their suspicion, they tried to follow but he sped off — crashing on a residential street seconds later after he swerved, appearing to try to avoid hitting a rubbish truck, prosecutors said.

When the officers arrived at the crash scene, Goldfinch got out first.

“The bullets pursued the constable, even as he hid behind an adjacent car … and even as he ran for what he believed was his life,” McClintock said.

Hunt was then shot four times from behind as he got out of the police car, according to prosecutors.

During a brief opening statement for Epiha, lawyer Marcus Edgar expressed condolences to Hunt’s family on behalf of his client and the defence team. His client never intended to kill anyone that day, he suggested.

“That opportunity to execute that man would have happened at the very beginning,” he said, describing the scene as chaotic and confusing. “So it’s not a black and white case.”

Sitting alongside Epiha at the Auckland High Court was Bracken, who is charged with being an accessory to murder by driving Ephiha from the shooting scene in an attempt to evade police.

Her lawyers declined to give an opening statement. Prosecutors, however, predicted her defence will be that she had no choice because she was afraid of Epiha. But she could have run away and called police, or at the very least not tried to evade police for a day if that was her intention, prosecutors contended.

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