A man who rammed a car off the road before shooting its driver dead in an alleged murderous fury had previously thought about ramming another motorist who had irked him, a High Court jury has been told.
Adrian Reginald George Phillips, 24, is standing trial in Hamilton. He is facing one charge of murder in relation to the death of Bayden Williams, 20, who was found dead on the Kopu-Hikuai Rd on the evening of Wednesday, August 5, 2020.
The Crown alleges Phillips deliberately rammed Williams’ vehicle off a twisting stretch of road. When Williams climbed up a bank back to the roadside, about 7pm that night, Phillips fatally injured him by shooting him three times in the shoulder, thigh and head with a shotgun.
The Crown contends Phillips was in a murderous rage when he fired the shots. His defence counsel says Phillips fired the shots in self-defence, because he believed Williams was coming at him with a knife.
On Monday, the court heard evidence from clinical psychologist Simon Seal, who, months before the incident, had assessed Phillips for evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder, at the request of Phillips’ GP.
Seal interviewed Phillips over the course of five meetings from May to July in 2020 and, while he did not find any conclusive evidence of PTSD, diagnosed him with depression and anxiety.
The GP had felt such an investigation was necessary following an incident on December 29, 2018, in which Phillips had suffered bad burns after pouring alcohol onto a bonfire, which had then exploded.
After some time away from his job as a mechanic at Nissan Paeroa, Phillips had returned to work. However the job that had previously brought him enjoyment and satisfaction he now found very difficult, and his workmates demanding and bullying.
He also began to have difficulty managing his temper.
Seal said he had been informed that during a prior consultation with the GP in February 2020, Phillips also disclosed he had contemplated deliberately running another motorist off the road, after that person had failed to let him overtake in a passing lane.
Seal had found that Phillips did not suffer from some of the criteria needed to warrant a diagnosis of PTSD – namely trauma-related nightmares, flashbacks or intrusive thoughts of the bonfire explosion.
He also had not gone out of his way to avoid any traumatic stimuli associated with that event – such as other bonfires – although he said he was initially fearful of driving around with a fuel tank on the back of his ute.
Phillips’ main issue was “episodes of discrete distress precipitated by several different triggers”. These included when criticism or nagging was directed at him, having to wait for things, and being thrust into high-pressure situations.
His work – which he eventually left – was “the primary stressor” in his life, the psychologist concluded.
“He was worried he might lose control and assault one of his colleagues ... He absolutely did not want to harm anyone.”
At their last meeting on July 28, 2020, Seal said Phillips’ mood had notably brightened, and he exhibited no signs of wanting to harm himself or others.
“My impression was that he was improving.”
Seal said Phillips also spoke about an incident in which he had been present when his then-partner’s father had been assaulted.
“I said it sounded like a traumatic incident,” Seal said. “He was adamant it was not.”