Emma Field murder trial: Witnesses rebuffed at scene of fatal fire, jury hears

A witness to a fatal house fire was told to “f*** off” when he asked if there was anybody inside the burning building, a jury has heard.

Leigh Matthew Frederick Beer is on trial at the High Court in New Plymouth charged with arson and murder following the death of his then-partner, 21-year-old Emma Field, in May 2022.

He is also charged with assault with intent to injure for punching a motorist who stopped to help fight the fire.

After an evening of drinking and drug-taking, Beer tipped over a bed on which Field was sleeping, set the mattress alight and left her to burn to death, the Crown alleges.

Beer has denied the charges, saying the case against him is circumstantial and someone else could have lit the fire.

On Friday, the jury heard from three young men who were out driving on the night of the fire and pulled over when they saw smoke drifting across Devon Street West.

Daryl Gavin was one of the trio.

He said after they parked, they saw smoke and flames coming out of a window of a ground-floor flat. One of the group called 111 about 11pm.

Gavin and his friends went onto the property and approached a “scruffy” man who was fighting the fire with a hose and screaming “Emma, come out!” over and over again.

The friends asked the man if there was anyone inside the property, but Gavin said: “He told us to piss off. He said ‘f*** off’.”

Gavin’s friend Matthew Edser said the ground-floor flat was “all lit up” with orangey flames.

He said the man with the hose was “fired up, angry, really rarked up and yelling out the lady’s name”. Edser thought he might be on drugs.

The trio then went around the side of the house and Gavin kicked in a door to another flat to make sure there was no-one inside. No-one came out.

Emma Field

Connor Carter, another of the three friends, said a short while later the man with the hose got into “a bit of a fight” with a man in a high-vis vest who had come onto the property.

He thought the man in the hi-vis was trying to help, but ended up with the man with the hose on top of him.

Carter said it was the man with the hose doing the hitting.

Gavin said the man in the high-vis vest was trying to drag the man with the hose back from the fire because he was quite close, “but the guy with the hose just beat him up”.

Under cross-examination, Carter and Edser said their view of the fight was obscured and they could not be 100 percent sure who was hitting whom.

But Gavin was adamant that it was the man with the hose doing the hitting.

“The man with hose was punching the hi-vis guy in the head,” he said.

Defence lawyer Julian Hannam put it to Carter and Edser that the actions of the man with the hose were those of someone determined to keep the hose, so he could continue fighting the fire.

The young men acknowledged that could be the case.

The trio also reported seeing another man on the property, wearing a silver hoodie. He was pacing and holding his hands on his head and appeared to be in shock, they said.

They said at one stage, this man had pushed Carter and had also been behaving strangely.

Carter said he had also run into a patched Mongrel Mob member at the bottom of the driveway. The gang member had asked him what was going on.

Under cross-examination, Carter said he had no idea where the Mongrel Mob member had come from. Neither Gavin nor Edser could remember seeing the gang member.

The trial, which is being heard before Justice Karen Grau, goes into its third week on Monday. It will likely last about a month.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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