A man who gunned down a perceived rival on a winding, bush-clad Coromandel highway has been jailed for 14 years – and treated to a harsh sendoff from court.
“Rot, you fat f…,” yelled the family of Bayden Williams to Adrian Phillips as he was ushered from a courtroom in Hamilton on Tuesday.
Following an almost six-week trial in the High Court at Hamilton earlier this year, Adrian Reginald George Phillips, 24, was found guilty of murdering Bayden Williams, 20.
Williams was found dead on the side of the Kopu-Hikuai Rd on the Coromandel Peninsula on the evening of Wednesday, August 5, 2020.
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The jury found Phillips had deliberately rammed Williams’ vehicle off a twisting stretch of road. When Williams attempted to climb up a bank back to the roadside, about 7pm that night, Phillips fatally injured him by shooting him three times – in the thigh, shoulder and, finally, his head – with a shotgun.
Phillips’ defence case, led by Ron Mansfield, QC, was that he had fired in self-defence because he believed Williams was advancing on him with a knife. However, the jury agreed with the Crown case, led by Rebecca Mann and Jacinda Hamilton, that Phillips was in a murderous rage when he opened fire and had effectively ambushed Williams on the dark, twisting highway.
There had been bad blood between Phillips and Williams and his father, Lance Williams. The two families had been linked by a pair of twin sisters, one of whom was Phillips’ partner, the other the former partner of Williams – and with whom he had a son, Loki. The pair were rekindling a relationship at the time he was killed.
Phillips returned to the High Court at Hamilton on Wednesday for his sentencing before Justice Melanie Harland.
Lance Williams was also there, and he and his wife, Tracy, and brother Josh spoke of their anguish at hearing the manner of Bayden Williams’ death.
Lance Williams was evidently still furious at the man who killed his son “and rolled him into the bush like some animal”.
Seeing his son in a body bag “with one side of his face blown off” was an image that would always stay with him.
“Had I known you were capable of such a brutal act … I would never have opened my door to you.”
Tracy Williams told Phillips her son was “a people pleaser – a humble dude who made everyone welcome, as he did with you.
“He was such a spark of light in our lives, and you have snuffed him out.”
Josh Williams had a blunt assessment of the situation: “You have broken the hearts of many … I hope your time in prison is miserable with every waking moment.”
Mansfield said the actions of Phillips reflected a failure of the mental health system. His client had suffered horrific injuries in a fuel explosion about a year and a half before the shooting, and he had subsequently been assaulted by Lance and Bayden Williams in a confrontation in Tairua earlier that year.
“The consequences are sadly real. While the physical injuries may have healed, the emotional injuries remained real and raw.”
His issues “had not been adequately identified and treated. If they were, we would not be here today.”
In her submissions, Hamilton said Phillips “chose to put his desire for revenge to the fore. He armed himself … and knowing his capacity for anger he engineered a confrontation likely to trigger him[self].
“This offending is not the result of a mental illness. It is the result of the actions of a vengeful and angry man.”
Justice Harland described Phillips’ decision to intercept Williams’ car on the road as “an impulsive and irrational decision … You were not intending to have a civilised discussion to clear the air between you.”
She stopped short of describing the murder as premeditated, however.
Hamilton had sought a minimum period of imprisonment of 15-and-a-half years. Mansfield asked for a 10-year minimum.
Phillips had tendered a letter to the court “offering my wholehearted apology … for what happened”.
“I will never forgive myself for what I did.”
Before the trial, Phillips had pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful possession of a shotgun and ammunition, and the judge sentenced him to a concurrent six months for those offences.