South Head murder trial: Woman shot man ‘she loves’ thinking he was an intruder

A woman who fatally shot a “man she loves” in remote, rural Auckland thought she was acting against an intruder, a court has heard.

Amy Christine Smith denies murdering Danny Bruce Taylor in April, 2019.

Crown prosecutor David Johnstone said by then Smith had been living in the remote South Head area, by the Kaipara Harbour, for quite some time.

On Taylor’s farm there was quite a substantial amount of cannabis in the barn, it seemed to have been grown there, Johnstone said.

That barn also contained his bedroom on a mezzanine level.

There cannabis branches lay drying over ordinary household items, and there was also a “considerable” number of firearms including a “loaded shotgun at the foot of the bed”.

According to the defendant, the pair had recently learned they were to be the likely target of what “she called a stand-over”, the prosecutor said.

Johnstone said the use of methamphetamine also seems likely to have impacted her thinking that night.

Perhaps more than the regular person Smith was “sleepless and alert” to unwanted visitors and she was “more ready” to take action against them.

Sometime after 1am, she sensed there was an intruder on the property, he said.

She armed herself with a rifle, the court heard.

“She knew it was loaded. From her perspective every gun in the house was loaded and ready to go.”

Playing on her mind – and the prosecutor quoted – was “the length m*****ls will go to get what is not theirs to take”, he said.

Once holding the rifle she noticed a person outside, he said.

From where she stood, she was unable to identify the person or see what they were doing, the court heard.

“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 bullet went through the man’s left arm … and carried on through the side of his chest through his left lung lodging in his heart.”

But there was no intruder that night, the prosecutor said, she had shot Taylor on his own property.

He yelled, “f**k you shot me,” Johnstone said.

Smith soon called 111 for an ambulance but he died before they arrived.

“Ms Smith clearly used unreasonable force,” Johnstone said.

Her actions were not to defend herself but for the purpose of putting a stop to someone coming in to steal drugs, he said.

“Ms Smith does appear to have killed Mr Taylor by mistake.”

But the “only mistake” was that it was Taylor and not some other person who would suffer the consequences, he said.

The Crown is expected to call just under 20 witnesses during the trial, with the evidence starting today with the 111 call Smith made for help.

“Naturally you will hear some of the anguish in her voice”, Johnstone said.

Defence lawyer Peter Kaye said it was accepted that his client fatally shot Taylor by mistake but there were issues in the trial.

“What happened in those crucial moments when Ms Smith had that gun?

“Was she acting to defend herself or another, namely Mr Taylor – the man she loves.”

How did Smith view the circumstances she was in at the time, he said.

“You are looking at it through her eyes.”

Smith was excused from listening to her 111 call as it was played to the jury this afternoon.

In the call she repeated the address of the emergency for the call taker and said she had shot her partner in the arm.

Smith described Taylor as pale as he lay on the floor and tried to stem the bleeding as the call taker repeatedly told her to apply pressure on the wound.

“Now, Amy what have you shot Danny with?”

“A shot him with a 22,” she said.

“I thought he was an intruder.”

Throughout the call a distressed Smith can be heard yelling.

At one point she says: “I don’t know how to control the bleeding.”

“Amy, calm down, you need to keep firm, steady pressure on the wound,” the call taker replied.

The trial before Justice Mary Peters and jury continues in the High Court at Auckland.

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