An underground crime unit is alleged to have helped carry out the kidnapping of Thai woman Jindarat Prutsiriporn in March of last year, the Auckland High Court has heard.
Prutsiriporn, 50, died when she fell, bound and gagged, from the boot of a moving car in Papatoetoe in south Auckland in 2016.
The trial of six men charged with her kidnapping is underway at the High Court in Auckland.
On Tuesday, in his opening address to the court, Gareth Kayes for the Crown explained how defendant Seng Lek Liev was the mastermind behind the kidnapping.
READ MORE: Prutsiriporn trial: Day one
Liev was known to Prutsiriporn through the underground meth scene.
It was Liev who enlisted the help of the Head Hunter’s gang, and a group within the gang known as “The Ghost Unit”, Kayes told the court.
It was this “Ghost Unit” which helped carrying out the kidnapping on February 29 last year.
“They didn’t know Ms Prutsiriporn, they were Mr Liev’s hired muscle,” Kayes said.
Despite an extensive police investigation, the motive for why Liev would carry out the kidnapping remained a mystery, Kayes told the court.
The group, which also included some of Liev’s associates, had attempted to kidnap Prutsiriporn on February 15, but had failed when police found the group waiting outside her house.
Two weeks later, the group lured Prutsiriporn to a car outside her house under the ruse of a drug deal.
It was at this point, Kayes said, that Prutsiriporn was dragged out of the car by Paneapasa Havea, a member of the Ghost Unit.
“He said words to the effect of, ‘Don’t scream or try anything, or I will shoot you. If you try anything I know where your family live’,” Kayes said.
Luigi Havea, along with Apichart Korhomklan, is on trial charged with Prutsiriporn’s manslaughter and kidnapping.
Masi Vaifali, and Joseph Benjamin Haurua, who are also members of the Ghost Unit, have both pleaded guilty to kidnapping, but are each defending a manslaughter charge.
Tevita Matangi Fangupo is facing a kidnapping charge.
“FOAMING FROM THE MOUTH”
The court heard how a number of the group allegedly held Prutsiriporn in different locations until she escaped from a car boot on March 1 around 7.30pm.
She had managed to escape using a chef’s steel to force the boot open. When the car accelerated, she fell out and suffered a blow to the head.
“She was found nearly unconscious, barely breathing and foaming from the mouth,” Kayes said.
“She was still holding the steel.”
Kayes explained how a pathologist had noted Prutsiriporn had suffered three blows to her head, but only one of those was likely caused by falling from the car.
It was unclear who had inflicted the other injuries, Kayes said, but it was clear they were given by one of the members of the Ghost Unit.
Kayes added that at no point did the group intend to kill Prutsiriporn.
“The Crown does not say any of the defendants intended to kill Ms Prutsiriporn,” Kayes said.
“They inflicted fear and threats of violence… as a result of that fear she tried to escape, she came out of the car boot, it was that, her head hitting the road, which contributed to her death.”
The trial, in front of Justice Matthew Palmer, is set down for 12 weeks. Over 100 witnesses are expected to be called.
Seng Lek Liev, Apichart Korhomklan and Luigi Havea are on trial for the woman’s manslaughter and kidnapping.