Bent Cops

18 Assault, Constable Dave Kirby, Sergeant Gary Patterson, Inspector R M Gibson.

THE REAL WANGANUI/NZ POLICE

Perverting the course of justice #7

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11164897

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On 11/8/93 Sandra asked Sergeant Garry Patterson in his office at the Wanganui East Police Station, “What are you going to do about the assault on Jack last Monday?

Patterson replied, “Ah well it’s still being investigated but I don’t think it will go ahead. As far as we are concerned Jack has no credibility with us at all and without some independent corroborative evidence we won’t be taking any prosecution.”

Sandra asked, “Tell me why Jack is not credible?

Patterson, “Because he’s a convicted liar.”

Patterson said all that before any of the witnesses had been spoken to by the Police.

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Gary Patterson

Roy Green was spoken to about the matter on 13/8/93 and a Mr. Aitchison, a passing motorist who could well have seen the assault, was not spoken to until 19/8/93.
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I’d like to ram this letter down Patterson’s throat!

Between 13/8/93 and 10/9/93 Roy Green told Constable John Grace, who was also stationed at Wanganui East, that Britton had assaulted me on 2/8/93 and that he had lied to Constable Kirby about it because Britton had told him to. (Britton perverted the course of justice) He also told Grace that he would not lie for Britton in Court. That fits in with Grace saying to me on 10/9/93 “If you lay a charge on Britton (a private prosecution) Green might tell the truth in Court.” Grace knew the truth about the matter but he kept it to himself. So Grace was now also guilty of participating in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Grace should have charged Green with making a false statement to Kirby and then gone after Britton for perverting the course of justice and assault. Did Grace tell Patterson what Green had told him? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Patterson was in on the cover-up.

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It didn’t matter that Britton was a self confessed liar, he was to be protected come what may.

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Watch for burglars, police warn

6 Nov, 2004

Wanganui Chronicle

By: Andrew Koubaridis

A spate of burglaries in Wanganui recently has police advising the public to be vigilant.
Acting senior sergeant Dave Kirby, of Wanganui police, said he wasn’t sure what caused the current spate of thefts but wanted the public to be aware.
“There are some active criminals in Wanganui carrying out burglaries in businesses and homes,” Mr Kirby said.
It was thought the thefts were the work of several individuals, rather than one group.
Over the past two weeks there have been 30 burglaries and 22 of these were in a single week.
This represented the most amount of burglaries in nearly four years, he said.
Burglaries have been decreasing in Wanganui at a steady rate and were now averaging about 10 a week, down from about 30 per week several years ago.
The big drop was recorded after Wanganui police targeted high risk persons they believed were involved in thefts in the city.
“We’re working hard to identify the offenders and have made good progress with two arrests.”
Eighteen and 19-year-old men were arrested on Thursday night and charged with burglary and unlawful use of a motor vehicle.
“We’re keen to hear from anyone that has any information,” Mr Kirby said.
Items being stolen were fairly traditional, like stereos, camcorders, televisions and Playstations but “thousands of boxes” of cigarettes had been taken too.
“There’s obviously a market out there where people are buying cheap cigarettes.””
The majority of the burglaries were happening at night but a reasonable amount were occurring in broad daylight, in several areas of the city.
“Things the public can do to help secure their homes include being vigilant, reporting suspicious activity, knowing when their neighbours aren’t around and supporting their neighbours,” he said.

Man arrested for the murder of Brett Hall

Saturday, 28 June 2014 – 3:46pm

Central Operation Pitangi – Brett Hall investigation

Police investigating the homicide of Whanganui man Brett Hall have arrested and charged a man with his murder today.

The 49-year-old Manawatü man appeared in the Whanganui District Court today. He was granted interim name suppression and has been remanded in custody. He will reappear in the Whanganui High Court on 14 July 2014.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Kirby, officer in charge of the investigation says: “This has been an extremely difficult inquiry but I know the investigation team never gave up trying. Recent developments as well as information obtained from our inquiries and public appeals resulted in the arrest and charge.”

“I want to thank the public and media for helping us with our numerous appeals for information.”

Brett went missing from his farm property up the Whanganui River in late May 2011. Police conducted an extensive homicide investigation and search phase into his disappearance with over 30 detectives from the Lower North Island working on the case.

“While we have made an arrest this does not signal the end of our investigation.

“We have further inquires to make and a prosecution to prepare but this is a major breakthrough and from the outset the investigation team has been determined to give some peace and closure to Brett’s family, ” says Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Kirby.

As the case is before the courts no further comment will be made at this time.

Note to media: Detective Senior Sergeant Kirby is not available to interview.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

A Dunedin survivor of historic abuse in state care says the number of prosecutions resulting from a national listening service is ”a joke”.

Figures released to the Otago Daily Times, following an Official Information Act request, showed just two offenders had been successfully prosecuted as a result of referrals to police by the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS).

The CLAS panel, launched in 2008, travelled the country to hear from about 1100 people – 57% of whom said they had been sexually abused in state care – before issuing its final report in 2015.

However, information released to the ODT by Detective Inspector David Kirby, the national manager of the police’s sexual violence and child protection unit, underscored the difficulties in securing convictions for historic offending dating back to the 1950s.

The figures showed the CLAS had referred 90 people to police, but 54 were for requests for further information only.

The remaining 36 referrals had led to criminal investigations being conducted, but charges were laid in just eight cases and just two prosecutions had been successful by September last year, the figures showed.

Det Insp Kirby said a lack of evidence, or a decision by the victim not to proceed, were the two main reasons other investigations did not result in criminal charges being laid.

Two more prosecutions did not proceed ”due to the health of the suspect”, while a third was still being investigated, he said.

The lack of prosecutions was criticised by Darryl Smith, a Dunedin survivor of historic sexual abuse in state care in New Zealand and Australia.

Mr Smith said the number of prosecutions was ”a joke”, but the ”very low” numbers of people spoken to by the CLAS was also a problem.

Many more victims had not shared their story by the time the CLAS closed in 2015, and the figures underscored the need for a royal commission, he believed.

Mr Smith was among those pushing for a national inquiry or royal commission, as mounted by other countries, including Australia.

The previous National-led government had resisted such calls, but the new Labour-led Government included an inquiry in its plan for its first 100 days in office.

Dr Murray Heasley, another campaigner for a national inquiry, including within the Catholic Church in New Zealand, said the CLAS lacked the power to compel evidence, and many victims had been unaware of its existence or did not feel confident engaging with it.

 

”A royal commission with teeth is needed for survivors to step forward and ensure the testimony needed for true redress and true justice and for the accused institutions to produce the evidence of their concealment of the criminal acts perpetrated on children in their care.”

Amanda Hill, a partner at law firm Cooper Legal, representing abuse survivors, said the figures reflected the past reluctance by police to investigate historic offending, as well as the difficulties in doing so successfully.

”Although it does not represent the entire police effort, the numbers do not surprise us,” she said.

Det Insp Kirby said all allegations of sexual abuse were taken seriously, but police guidelines required a ”reasonable prospect of conviction” before a prosecution was launched. 

”In general terms, the more historical the allegation of abuse the more challenging it is to [meet] the Solicitor-general’s guidelines to commence criminal proceedings. This is often due to the loss of evidence, people’s recollections being uncertain, or witnesses are unavailable due to death or not being able to be located.”

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

Framed for murder, part one: The framing of David Lyttle

Mike White05:00, Mar 26 2022

David Lyttle was a struggling man, with failing health and mortgage payments he couldn’t meet. When his best friend, Brett Hall, disappeared, police accused Lyttle of murdering him, then lured him into a fantasy world of crime to get him to confess.

Mike White investigates the extraordinary story of David Lyttle, the undercover operation that went too far, and how an ordinary man’s life was destroyed when police framed him.

David Lyttle, who spent four years in prison for the 2011 murder of his best friend, Brett Hall. Lyttle’s conviction was quashed, and the charges against him dismissed in 2021.

$50,000 of cash sat on the table in front of David Lyttle.

Alongside it lay a brochure for a Porsche SUV Lyttle dreamt of owning.

Opposite him sat a man named Scott.

Lyttle also knew him as “Mr Big”, the boss of a secretive criminal organisation Lyttle had been involved with for the last three months.

FRAMED for MURDER

The undercover operation that went too far

Via drug deals, standovers, stakeouts, and robberies, Lyttle had been gradually drawn further into the gang and the mythical man at its centre – Mr Big.

Now, here he was in person, offering Lyttle the chance of a lifetime, the chance to join the gang permanently.

He’d get riches he’d never had before, be taken on a 5-star trip to Australia, only have to work two days a week, be able to pay his bills and buy firewood to heat the tumbledown Halcombe cottage he lived in with his wife and three children.

For Lyttle, an injured builder and alcoholic with little work and mounting money woes, the offer was utterly life-changing, and something he was desperate to accept.

But before all this could happen, there was something Scott needed – he needed Lyttle to come clean and admit any crimes in his past, because his syndicate operated on complete trustworthiness and honesty.

And Scott had heard Lyttle was the prime police suspect in the murder of Lyttle’s best mate, Brett Hall, who’d mysteriously disappeared three years earlier, in 2011.

Lyttle had always denied it, through countless police interrogations. And that’s what he told Scott – that he had nothing to do with it, (“I can tell you honestly, I did not do it…”), that Hall was most likely the victim of a drug deal gone wrong.

But Scott wasn’t satisfied

He told Lyttle that’s not what his contact inside the police was telling him. Said he trusted this cop 1000 per cent. Said he didn’t “give a f..k if you’ve knocked this boy over, I couldn’t f…..g care less – my loyalty’s not to him, it’s to you, okay?”

The crucial thing was honesty, he stressed, if Lyttle was going to be accepted into the gang.

David Lyttle, a physically broken man, living in a broken house, with a broken life, glanced at the cash, glimpsed the car, then looked up at Scott.

“All right then, I’ll tell you the truth,” Lyttle blurted. “I did do it.”

Brett Hall was living in a remote area of the Whanganui River when he disappeared in May 2011. His body has never been found.

Of course, Scott wasn’t Mr Big.

He wasn’t the head of a crime syndicate with connections stretching from Chinese drug cartels to corrupt cops, as Lyttle had been led to believe.

He wasn’t even “Scott”.

He was an undercover cop, one of many who’d created an elaborate fantasy world to trap Lyttle into admitting he’d murdered Brett Hall.

Within weeks of Hall disappearing in late-May 2011 from his property 30km northeast of Whanganui, in a remote region of the Whanganui River, police became convinced Lyttle had killed him.

Lyttle had been building a house for Hall on the block of bush Hall half-owned, up a rugged 4WD track in an area known as Pitangi.

The police theory was that Hall was unhappy with Lyttle’s slow building progress, and believed Lyttle was skimming money meant for materials. When Hall confronted Lyttle about this, Lyttle shot him, dismembered him, and buried his body far away.

It was a theory largely based on dubious information and questionable instinct. It also seemed to overlook a much more likely line of inquiry – that Hall had been killed by an associate in the drug world he was deeply involved with.

Hall had already suffered two home invasions, one involving being shot at. He slept with guns beside him.

The weekend he went missing, Hall had a major drug deal going down with people linked to the Mongrel Mob and other gangs

The Pitangi property Brett Hall half-owned, and lived at in a camp at right. The house David Lyttle was building for him is at left.

There was no forensic or physical evidence linking Lyttle to the crime, so in lengthy interviews, police relied on challenging his alibis, and daring him to agree to the scenario they painted of how he’d killed Hall.

They bugged his phones, but Lyttle said nothing incriminating. They followed him, but learnt nothing.

By the end of 2011, unable to amass enough evidence to charge Lyttle, police scaled down their inquiry.

However, by 2014 they had begun investigating the case again, still convinced Lyttle was the culprit.

And in meetings that have never been detailed, with senior officers who can’t be identified, police made the decision to launch a complex and controversial sting they had used in the past.

Mr Big was about to be resurrected, and enter David Lyttle’s life

The caravan Brett Hall was living in when he went missing, and his red ute.

In October 2009, Brett Hall walked out of jail after serving five years of a seven-year sentence for dealing methamphetamine and possessing a pistol.

While in prison, he’d met another drug dealer, and the pair had purchased the Pitangi section in August 2010.

Hall shifted onto the property, living in a caravan, with a firepit for cooking, and a longdrop toilet. He was keen to get a house built, so contacted his friend of 30 years, David Lyttle, who had done building work most of his life, and construction began in late 2010.

Hall was Lyttle’s best friend, had attended his wedding, and an arrangement was made between them: Hall would give Lyttle cash to buy building supplies, to get the house to a state where it was enclosed with roof, cladding and windows.

The total cost was set at $70,000, with the materials estimated at $30,000, and the remainder paid to Lyttle for his labour, at the end of the job.

Despite still being on parole, Hall had gone back to dealing and using drugs, and was suspected of secretly manufacturing methamphetamine at Pitangi.

He was known to hide money and drugs on the property (police found a bucket containing $14,000, and cannabis buried there, after Hall disappeared), and carried large amounts of cash on him.

The area surrounding Brett Hall’s property is extremely rugged and popular with hunters.

Lyttle suffered a shoulder injury and underwent surgery in February 2011, which slowed building progress and caused Hall some frustration. But by May 2011, the framing was complete, and ready for a council inspection.

On Friday May 27, 2011, Lyttle visited Pitangi to work on the house, and spent time with Hall.

Early the next morning, Hall’s son Damian arrived at Pitangi to go hunting with two friends, but there was no sign of his father. His caravan was open, his guns were missing, and his quad bike was parked up on the edge of the bush, so they assumed he’d gone hunting, and they left.

On Sunday May 29, Lyttle says he tried to go fishing early in the morning, then drove to Pitangi for some final building work before the council inspection, and had a beer with Hall, who said he was going hunting. Lyttle left around 11am.

That afternoon, several people and vehicles were seen on the 4WD track leading to Hall’s property.

The next day, a neighbouring beekeeper heard cries for help from Hall’s camp, and saw a glint of light. She was so concerned, police were alerted.

When Hall, 47, still hadn’t surfaced by Wednesday June 1, police arrived at Pitangi and a huge search was launched.

A massive search was launched after Brett Hall disappeared, involving police and military.

But Hall was never found, or any sign of where he’d gone, other than his quad bike still parked near the bushline, so police suspected foul play.

Despite Hall’s underworld connections and known drug dealing, police instead swiftly settled on David Lyttle as the prime suspect.

They believed Hall discovered Lyttle was ripping him off, and this led to Lyttle killing him.

This was despite Hall being Lyttle’s only real friend, Lyttle having no history of violence, the last of his minor convictions being 26 years prior, and the fact Hall still owed Lyttle tens of thousands of dollars for his work on the house.

To bolster their suspicions, police noted Lyttle lied about buying guns for Hall (who wasn’t allowed firearms due to his parole conditions), and gave conflicting explanations about a mysterious early morning drive to beaches near Bulls on the Sunday morning.

Suspicion became certainty that Lyttle had murdered Hall, and he was interrogated eight times in the weeks after Hall’s disappearance, police repeatedly accusing him of being guilty, and one time warning Lyttle he was facing 18 years in prison.

Despite realising he was the police’s number one suspect, Lyttle never called a lawyer.

Instead, he continued to deny he’d killed his friend, telling police Hall was back dealing methamphetamine, and had likely been killed over a deal gone wrong. Police refused to believe him, while at the same time appearing to easily accept the alibi claims of Hall’s drug world associates.

Their frustration at being unable to prove Lyttle’s guilt was at the heart of the case being referred to police’s covert investigations group.

By March 2014, the plan to ensnare David Lyttle in a fictional world and get him to confess was complete, and the Mr Big undercover operation was set in motion.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Kirby led the investigation into Brett Hall’s disappearance for much of the inquiry. It was Kirby’s approach to the police covert investigations group, that led to the Mr Big operation targeting David Lyttle.

Mr Big operations are the brainchild of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

They work like this.

Police strongly suspect someone is guilty but don’t have the evidence to charge them. So undercover officers befriend the “target”, pretending to be part of a successful crime syndicate, headed by Mr Big.

The syndicate has underworld contacts, and Mr Big has certain dirty cops in his pocket, who help the gang get away with its crimes.

All those who get invited to be part of the gang are offered a luxurious lifestyle, and promised they will be completely looked after by Mr Big.

The suspect initially gets to help out on numerous operations and “crimes”, all of which are being staged by the undercover officers. Eventually, the target is invited to join the group

Kamal Reddy, centre, confessed during a Mr Big sting that he had murdered his former partner Pakeeza Yusuf and her daughter, Jojo. He led undercover officers to the site where he had buried them.

But first, they have to meet Mr Big, and as a sign of their honesty and loyalty, have to confess to anything they’ve done wrong in their past. Mr Big explains this is because he doesn’t want the crimes causing trouble for the gang in the future, and insists his crooked-cop contacts can make the issues go away.

At this stage, completely believing the Mr Big gang is real, completely bedazzled by the lifestyle being offered, the suspect confesses to the crime police believe they’ve committed, in order to become part of the gang.

Once this has happened, Mr Big and the other gang members reveal themselves as police officers, and arrest the suspect on the basis of their confession.

The ruse is so successful, it’s been used over 400 times in Canada from the 1990s, with a 95 per cent success of conviction.

However, concerns about its legitimacy have seen it used sparingly in the rest of the world, and not in America or the United Kingdom.

Critics argue the technique is tantamount to entrapment, given the inducements offered to confess.

Moreover, the scenario is essentially questioning by police, with the suspect unaware of this and not offered legal safeguards like the right to a lawyer, or to remain silent, as required by law if the officers were in uniform.

New Zealand police adopted the Mr Big technique in about 2005. They refuse to release virtually any details about it, and have sought to keep Mr Big cases hidden from the public, but say it has been used seven times, all homicides, and has resulted in a conviction every time

Pakeeza Yusuf, 24, went missing in late 2006. Her body was found in 2014 after her former partner, Kamal Reddy, confessed to undercover police during a Mr Big operation that he had killed her and her daughter, Jojo.

The best-known example is the case of Kamal Reddy, who was suspected of killing his ex-girlfriend, Pakeeza Yusuf, and her three-year-old daughter, Jojo, in 2006.

In 2014, Reddy confessed his guilt to undercover officers he believed were part of the Mr Big syndicate, who promised him they could make sure he was never charged for the murders. He then showed them where he buried the bodies, under a newly-built motorway overbridge on Auckland’s North Shore.

Another high-profile case was Tawera Wichman, accused of causing his 11-month-old daughter Teegan’s death in 2009, when he was 17. After a five-month Mr Big operation in 2012-13, where he was paid more than $2000 for helping the gang in numerous “crimes”, including fake burglaries and selling drugs, Wichman confessed to “Mr Big” (also “Scott’) that he had shaken Teegan. He eventually pleaded guilty to her manslaughter.

Argument about whether the controversial technique is legal has dogged its use in New Zealand.

Somewhat bizarrely, despite being the most deceitful tactic used by police, they don’t even require a warrant from a judge to carry it out.

As David Lyttle’s lawyer Christopher Stevenson told the courts: “The behaviour of police lying to a citizen over months whilst posing as methamphetamine dealers, rapists and prostitutes, as happened here, and luring citizens into faux crime is plainly, on anyone’s assessment, right at the limits of tolerable state conduct.”

Tawera Wichman pleaded guilty to manslaughter, after being the target of a Mr Big operation.

In Wichman’s case, the High Court judge allowed the evidence, despite noting ordinary New Zealanders “would not expect the police to engage in lies, deception and blatantly misleading conduct of the kind that happened in this case”.

The Court of Appeal overturned this decision, saying the rewards Wichman received made his confession unreliable.

But in 2015, in a 3:2 split decision, the Supreme Court ruled Mr Big scenarios could be used by police.

However, the warning of one of the dissenting judges, then-Chief Justice Sian Elias, echoed the concerns of many, who believed the risk of false confessions was simply too high, and the technique should be barred.

“The statements were obtained by threats, promises, or misrepresentations, which raise issues as to their reliability….The power of the state was used to play on [Wichman’s] hopes and fears.

“If the views I have expressed mean that Mr Big scenarios to obtain confessional evidence cannot be undertaken, I think that is the price of observation of fair process.”

Former Chief Justice, Dame Sian Elias, strongly warned against the use of Mr Big undercover operations.

The first step in the Mr Big technique is to ease your way into the suspect’s world and confidence, and get alongside them.

In Wichman’s case, undercover officers called at his house and offered him the chance to win a 4WD adventure in Rotorua if he answered a survey about petrol stations. Shortly after, he was told he was one of the winners, but of course, when he arrived in Rotorua, all the other winners were actually undercover police.

In 2014, police set about finding a way to lure David Lyttle into their web of fiction and false-friendship.

Based on bugging Lyttle’s house and phone calls in 2011, police had created a profile of Lyttle, his personality, his hobbies, his financial situation, his weaknesses and vulnerabilities they could target. And that profile provided them with the way to get to Lyttle – fishing.

Like Wichman, undercover officers door-knocked Lyttle saying they were running a survey with a mystery prize. That prize turned out to be a day’s fishing off Wellington’s south coast, something the fishing-mad Lyttle couldn’t resist.

On board the charter boat, Lyttle was befriended by “Nick O’Neal”, an undercover cop who became a constant in Lyttle’s life for the next three months, as they met more than 20 times.

Nick explained how he worked for a guy, Scott, who was involved in numerous criminal activities. Not only was he highly successful, he was incredibly generous, and his team would regularly get a “big pay day”, which, as another undercover cop told Lyttle, was “like 100 Christmases rolled into one”.

Nick said they needed an extra pair of hands, and offered Lyttle the chance to make some money on the side.

To Lyttle, who was struggling with the physical demands of building, and struggling to find work to support his family, this was a godsend

Despite a massive search for Brett Hall, no sign of him was ever found in the area around his Pitangi property.

The first job was to repossess a car

They collected $5000 from a police officer posing as a prostitute, “Candy”.

Lyttle acted as lookout on Wainuiomata Hill while the gang supposedly raided a house for firearms.

He went into gun shops to make sketches for future robberies.

He took phones across the country to provide alibis, met Chinese drug dealers, and went to Nelson to photograph a mystery yacht.

He was frequently involved in counting thousands of dollars he understood came from drug deals. (All the scenarios and crimes were fictitious.)

During much of this, Lyttle was driven in a Porsche SUV he was told he would receive, once he was admitted to the gang.

Throughout 24 undercover scenarios with Lyttle, Nick and the other gang members continually stressed Scott’s requirement for complete loyalty, honesty and trustworthiness among members. Lyttle was told of one member, “Steve”, who was kicked out of the gang for merely lying to Scott about a minor matter related to a car.

Scott could fix anything for them, Lyttle was told – but you had to be up front with him.

To emphasise this, the undercover police team concocted a scenario where one gang member, “CJ”, had assaulted and raped a 13-year-old. CJ had informed Scott about this, and Scott was dealing with it.

Lyttle and Nick were then instructed to go to Wellington’s police station, where a dodgy cop Scott knew, with access to crime exhibits, would meet them.

As they sat in their car outside, the uniformed cop, “Lee”, came out of the station with a package, supposedly the rape kit from CJ’s victim that contained CJ’s DNA, and told Lyttle and Nick to destroy it.

This done, CJ was provided with a false passport, and told to go to Australia under a new identity and lie low for a bit.

David Lyttle couldn’t help but be amazed by Scott’s power, and the organisation’s support. And he couldn’t help but be bewitched by the money he was being exposed to, cash in the tens of thousands, drugs worth hundreds of thousands.

Police and army personnel gather during the search for Brett Hall.

Lyttle was an easy mark.

He’d left school at 14 with no qualifications, had never been on a plane in his life, and couldn’t even work a modern cellphone.

His life was simple, he kept pigeons, and went fishing.

He’d inherited his cottage from his parents, with its crumbling plaster facade and driveway stained with oil from vehicles kept on the road by hope and repairs.

He was a heavy smoker with lung problems, reliant on painkillers, and an alcoholic, having drunk heavily since he was 16 – on the fishing trip where Nick first sidled up to him, Lyttle drank 20 cans of beer. (Given this, police were concerned about the veracity of anything Lyttle told them.)

Brett Hall had been his only real non-family friend.

And Lyttle was in a desperate financial situation, having been unable to work because of illness and injury, missing mortgage payments, struggling to provide basics for his family, like firewood to keep the house warm while his children were sick and home from school.

Now, he was being offered membership of a group that regularly received big pay days. “We don’t get paid weekly or fortnightly,” Nick told Lyttle. “There’s just money all over the place.”

The gang offered so much that Lyttle lacked in his life: luxury, friends, support, prestige.

Despite being hopeless at many of the tasks he was given by the gang (he inadvertently took a selfie of himself on a phone he was meant to be relocating, he left clothes behind in a motel on a secret trip), the gang was effusive about his work, constantly encouraging him.

Behind his back, however, via secret microphones, which recorded everything, the undercover officers described him as a “c…” and “socially f….d”

Dog handler Jason Page and his dog Ace prepare to search for Brett Hall, in rugged bush around the Whanganui River.

Gradually it was indicated there might be an opening in the gang, as Nick wanted to shift back to Auckland. All Lyttle needed to do was meet Scott, and convince “Mr Big” he could be trusted.

On Thursday June 26, 2014, Nick took a phone call.

“Scott wants to see you at two o’clock at his apartment,” he excitedly told Lyttle.

“You know what that means? It’s your f…..g meeting mate. That’s f…..g awesome. Oh, shit hot … this is it mate, you’re that close, that f…..g close.

“It’s one of those times in life where you have a f…..g, a moment and depending on which way you go, it’s f…..g up to the sky … all your Christmases come at once, or it’s just f…..g back to your normal life and, and on you go.”

Lyttle had been waiting for this, the chance to change his future and his family’s fortunes. His wife, Helen, was anxious he passed this final test, and even his children were asking when he might get this promised new job. (Neither Lyttle’s wife nor children knew the supposedly criminal nature of the work Lyttle was doing for the fake gang.)

To help make a good impression, Nick took Lyttle to get his hair cut, and then buy a new shirt for the occasion.

When they arrived at Scott’s apartment, Scott handed Nick a wad of cash and told him to make a booking at an expensive Italian restaurant for later that night.

Then Scott and Lyttle talked. For an hour. Discussing the work Lyttle had done, the hole CJ had got himself into and how Scott had helped him get out, and how trust and honesty were utterly paramount.

And that’s when Scott laid it on the line with Lyttle and raised the matter of Brett Hall’s death.

And, when Lyttle denied it, and Scott demurred and said he didn’t believe him, and Lyttle saw his gang membership and its life-changing benefits slipping away from him, that’s when he said he’d done it.

In that instant, in those few stammered words, it gave police exactly what they’d set out to get, all those months, and all those choreographed hoax scenarios ago.

Framed for murder, part two: The ‘confession’

Mike White, Mar 26 2022

A four-part Stuff investigation, exposing an undercover police operation that went too far.

When David Lyttle said he’d killed Brett Hall, police thought they’d finally got their man. But the case gradually unravelled as Lyttle’s lawyers fought to expose what had occurred during the police investigation, and how crucial information had been hidden.

Mike White investigates the extraordinary story of David Lyttle, the undercover operation that went too far, and how an ordinary man’s life was destroyed when police framed him.

This is Part Two: The “confession”

David Lyttle spent four years in prison for the 2011 murder of his best friend, Brett Hall. Lyttle’s conviction was quashed, and the charges against him dismissed in 2021.

There was no flashing of badges, reading of rights, or snapping of handcuffs when David Lyttle made his “confession” to Scott, the man he thought was the boss of a successful criminal gang, but was actually an undercover cop.

For three months, Lyttle had been drawn into a fantasy world by a secret police operation, led to believe he could join Scott’s underworld enterprise, and have all his money and work and personal problems swept away.

All Scott needed to know before that happened, was whether there were any skeletons in Lyttle’s criminal closet – and he’d heard Lyttle was the prime suspect in the murder of Brett Hall.

Hall, who was Lyttle’s best mate, had gone missing from his Whanganui River home three years before, in 2011, and police believed Lyttle had killed him over a financial falling out.

FRAMED for MURDER

The undercover operation that went too far

Unable to find evidence against Lyttle, police launched a controversial “Mr Big” sting, aimed at getting him to confess to the crime.

As Scott pressed him to tell the truth about Hall, Lyttle saw his chances of joining the gang, with all its life-changing benefits, slipping away, and finally said he’d murdered Hall – not realising he’d just confessed to an undercover police officer.

But Scott stayed in character, welcomed Lyttle into the gang, and then quizzed him on exactly how he had murdered his best friend Brett Hall.

Brett Hall was living in a remote area of the Whanganui River when he disappeared in May 2011. His body has never been found.

And this is what Lyttle told him.

Worried Hall was getting back into the drug world and might do something to him, there had been a fight between the two friends. They patched things up, but when they went hunting on Friday 27 May 2011, Lyttle said he shot Hall between the eyes with a .22 rifle.

Hall didn’t die immediately, so Lyttle put a plastic bag he’d brought for this purpose over Hall’s head to suffocate him and catch any blood.

Once Hall was dead, Lyttle said he cut him in half on a tarpaulin using a hacksaw and Stanley knife, and then burnt the tarpaulin in the fireplace at Hall’s camp.

Lyttle said he then loaded the body parts into rubbish bags he bought from the supermarket – the torso in one bag, the legs in the other.

He then drove home, and left Hall’s dismembered body in the back of his unlocked Nissan Terrano, covered with firewood, outside his house for nearly two days.

A Nissan Terrano similar to David Lyttle’s, which police asked for sightings of.

Early on Sunday May 29, Lyttle told Scott, he drove to two beaches along the Manawatū-Whanganui coast – Turakina Beach, 30km northwest of Bulls, and Himatangi Beach about 65km south of Turakina Beach.

At each site, Lyttle claimed he dug an enormous hole at the high tide line with a shovel, put in Hall’s body parts, doused them with petrol, added firewood, and let them burn for two hours before filling in the holes.

The day after Lyttle’s “Mr Big” meeting and confession, Lyttle took Scott and Nick to the places he said he buried Hall’s body, after Scott promised to fix any problems with the crime.

However, Lyttle directed them first to a location in Santoft Forest, near Scotts Ferry and well away from the coast, and said he buried Hall’s legs there.

He then took them to a spot near Himatangi Beach where he said he buried the torso, claiming he had driven along the beach to get there.

Police subsequently excavated both sites and found nothing.

Later that day, while Lyttle was sitting at a Whanganui cafe with Nick and Scott, the world he’d been living in for the past three months collapsed around him, when two detectives walked up, and arrested him for Hall’s murder.

Suddenly, Lyttle realised the friends he thought he’d made were actually undercover cops intent on proving he had killed Hall. There would be no big pay day, no comfortable life, no financial security for him or his family.

The fantasies of Porsches and overseas trips and mates and partying that he’d imagined, evaporated as he was read his rights.

In their place, Lyttle was handed a set of prison clothes and led to a jail cell.

David Lyttle on the first day of his trial in 2018. A week later, the trial was aborted when it became apparent police had yet again failed to disclose crucial evidence.

Lyttle spent two years in jail awaiting trial, before being bailed. Continual delays, mostly due to police failing to disclose vital evidence to Lyttle’s lawyers, led to his trial being repeatedly postponed.

This included thousands of pages of information from the undercover operation, hundreds of police notebook pages, and, most crucially, a statement made to police by an informant who said Hall’s murder was arranged by an associate who had stolen drugs worth $200,000 from him – not by David Lyttle.

The information had been given to police in March 2014 – before the Mr Big operation began – and was forwarded to the police homicide team.

When Lyttle’s lawyers became aware of this statement in July 2017, they asked why it hadn’t been shown to them before now. The officer in charge of the investigation at that time claimed he’d not seen the document until that moment.

But when the defence obtained an electronic footprint of the critical document, it showed the officer had not only seen the jobsheet with the informant’s claims in 2014, but had sent or received eight emails about it with various people.

Despite this, the informant’s claims had not been followed up.

Detective Sergeant Grayson Joines, right, was given the job of ensuring police had disclosed all relevant evidence in the David Lyttle investigation, to Lyttle’s lawyers. Despite a two-month audit by four officers led by Joines, crucial evidence was still not handed over, or was redacted, leading to Lyttle’s first trial being aborted after a week. When asked in court in 2019 why vital evidence hadn’t been disclosed, Joines replied: “I don’t have an explanation other than I have made a mistake.” He is pictured at the 2012 trial of Ewen Macdonald, who was acquitted of murdering Scott Guy, with now-assistant police commissioner Sue Schwalger.

Lyttle’s lawyers also had to get the court to order police to hand over transcripts and audio recordings of the Mr Big team’s scenarios involving Lyttle, after police and the Crown refused to release them. (This is the first time such recordings have ever been disclosed to defence lawyers and judges in New Zealand.)

Despite a senior police officer assuring the court in February 2017 that all police notebooks had been disclosed, the following month nearly 600 more pages of notebook entries were released for the first time. More followed, along with 68 hard drives containing CCTV footage and phone data, and other critical information.

Successive statements from the courts described the police and prosecution failure to disclose vital information, and improperly redact documents as, “poor, by any measure,” “a serious failure”, “disturbing”, “troubling”, and “indefensible”.

“The prosecution services as a whole should be embarrassed at the least by what has happened. The family of the victim, the public, and the court deserve better,” fumed Justice Simon France at one point.

France was so concerned about the situation, in October 2017 he again delayed Lyttle’s trial, and ordered police carry out an audit of what had and hadn’t been disclosed.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Kirby, right, one of the police officers who led the investigation into Brett Hall’s murder. Many of Kirby’s notebook entries were not disclosed to David Lyttle’s lawyers, for up to seven years in some cases. Beside him are Brett Hall’s mother, Lee, and son, Damian.

Police immediately stood down one of the investigation’s lead officers, and the two-month audit by four other officers led by Detective Sergeant Grayson Joines, resulted in hundreds more relevant documents being released, including nearly all the notebooks of one of the officers in charge of the investigation, Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Kirby, which somehow hadn’t been handed over until then. (Nearly everything in them was redacted by Joines and Kirby, however.)

With the judge believing the problems had now been solved, Lyttle’s trial finally began in Palmerston North in October 2018, more than four years after the Mr Big sting and Lyttle’s arrest.

After the end of the trial’s first week, one of the officers who had at one stage headed the investigation, and was the officer in charge of disclosure, former detective sergeant John Gleeson, was reading his statements ahead of giving evidence at the trial.

As he did, Gleeson said he suddenly realised large parts of his notebooks hadn’t been handed over to Lyttle’s lawyers. This included details of someone claiming to have been present when Brett Hall was killed, and it was a drug deal gone wrong – not including Lyttle.

Noting that police had held this information for six years without releasing it, and barely able to contain his frustration, Justice France immediately aborted the trial.

High Court judge Simon France made repeated calls for police to disclose all relevant evidence in the case against David Lyttle, but was forced to abandon Lyttle’s trial in 2018 when it became clear crucial documents had still been withheld.

More disclosure continued to be drip-fed from police, including details of another informant who’d told police how Hall was killed and where he was buried – none of which involved David Lyttle. Police admitted they hadn’t got round to following up this information.

Lyttle’s defence team remained so concerned about what information was still being kept from them, on two occasions they drove to Whanganui Police Station and went through thousands of documents in the exhibits room.

The first time, they uncovered a letter from Brett Hall’s drug dealing colleague, apologising to Hall for stealing money and drugs from him, and offering to give Hall his half of the Pitangi property they co-owned.

The second time, Elizabeth Hall says police at the station made it “abundantly clear it was an unwelcome intrusion by the defence into the exhibit room. I was essentially shut into an airless room for the day. There was nowhere to sit, no chairs, no table to work at, no ability to open a window, no air conditioning.”

Surrounded by clothes and duvets and cans of flammable liquid, all seized by police from Brett Hall’s camp or his mother’s house in 2011, she discovered a container marked “Box with papers”.

And in it was a black rubbish bag containing notes made by Brett Hall, detailing everything that had been spent on his new house, and confirming what Lyttle had told police about the payment arrangement.

“It put whatever suggestion David had any reason to kill his best friend, completely out the window,” says Hall.

One of David Lyttle’s lawyers, Elizabeth Hall, made two trips to the Whanganui Police Station’s exhibits room, where she discovered crucial evidence she had not been given by police.

All the notes had been examined by police, but never disclosed to Lyttle or his lawyers.

“I think outrage was the predominant emotion that I had on the drive from Whanganui back to Wellington,” remembers Hall.

In September 2019, Lyttle’s trial finally commenced, in Wellington, with Lyttle’s lawyers insisting his “confession” was false, and only made so that he could join Mr Big’s successful and lucrative organisation.

Over nine weeks, the jury heard hours of secret recordings from the Mr Big operation, during which Lyttle was blissfully unaware he was part of a cynically created world aimed at getting him to confess to killing Brett Hall.

That eventual confession to “Scott”, proved too powerful, and the jury convicted Lyttle of Hall’s murder.

At his sentencing, Justice Jill Mallon noted “the offending was aberrant. You are normally a peaceful, non-violent person who gets on with things that life throws up.”

She sentenced Lyttle to life in prison with a non-parole period of 11 years

Justice Jill Mallon, who presided over David Lyttle’s 2019 trial.

Lyttle’s lawyers took his case to the Court of Appeal in November 2020, still adamant the elaborate Mr Big operation had enticed Lyttle to make a false confession.

The fact everything Lyttle told police about how he committed the murder and disposed of Hall’s body proved to be false or wasn’t backed up by police investigations, showed his story was concocted, they argued.

And in March 2021, in a stinging judgment, the Court of Appeal quashed Lyttle’s conviction, agreeing the Mr Big operation had gone too far, and evidence from it should never have been heard by the jury.

It said the undercover ruse put “significant psychological pressure” on Lyttle to confess.

Police exploited his clear financial stress, exacerbating this by deliberately taking him away from his paid building work to perform tasks for the gang, which caused Lyttle’s wife considerable concern. (At one point, Lyttle tried to sell fundraising chocolate to undercover officers to raise money for his daughter’s school camp.)

The operation had also preyed on Lyttle’s social isolation, by offering him a group of supportive colleagues, the court said.

The picture created of Scott’s deep contacts within the police, and his ability to fix any issues Lyttle had with them, was “a particularly manipulative feature”, according to the judges.

The reality was, confessing to Scott carried no risks or downsides for Lyttle: It would merely confirm what Scott had been told by his police insider, and saying he’d killed Hall removed the barrier to him joining the gang and receiving enormous financial benefits.

In short, there was little incentive or reason not to admit to the killing, and much to be gained from it, whether it was true or not.

In other Mr Big cases, the suspect’s confession has led to crucial evidence being uncovered, such as Kamal Reddy showing undercover police where he’d buried the bodies of his former girlfriend and her daughter.

However, in David Lyttle’s case, virtually nothing he told Scott carried any credibility, according to the Court of Appeal.

  • Lyttle said he committed the murder because Hall was getting back into methamphetamine, and Lyttle feared for his own safety. However, Lyttle had known Hall for years when he was using methamphetamine, and never previously been concerned. Moreover, there was no evidence Hall was violent when using the drug.
  • Lyttle claimed he and Hall had a punch up prior to the murder. But nobody, including police who saw him shortly after Hall disappeared, recalled any sign of him being in a fight.
  • Lyttle claimed he took 30 seconds to cut Hall’s body in half. One expert at trial estimated such a procedure would take at least several minutes, another said it would take 20-30 minutes.
  • Both pathologists said the dissection would have been bloody, and Lyttle would have got Hall’s blood on him. (One said it was inconceivable such dismembering wouldn’t have created “an unholy mess”.) But no trace of blood or Brett Hall’s DNA was ever found on Lyttle’s clothes, or in his ute where the body supposedly sat for nearly two days. The Court of Appeal said it was “striking that no forensic evidence was found that corroborated Mr Lyttle’s admissions.” One pathologist said Lyttle’s story of cutting Hall in half was “the figment of an uneducated and unsophisticated mind, nothing more.”

Police go door-to-door in Scotts Ferry, talking to residents about the disappearance of Brett Hall.

  • Lyttle said he put Hall’s body into rubbish bags he bought from Marton New World. However, CCTV footage showed Lyttle didn’t buy the bags until the day after he claimed he’d killed and cut up Hall.
  • He said he burnt the tarpaulin he dissected Hall on, and other evidence, in the fireplace at Hall’s property, and the fire burnt for three days. However, no evidence of a tarpaulin was found in the fire’s ash, and when Hall’s son visited the property the day after Lyttle supposedly killed Brett Hall, the fire was completely cold.
  • Expert analysis of CCTV footage showed two white objects in the back of Lyttle’s vehicle on the Sunday he was supposedly disposing of Hall’s body. The objects are consistent with the fishing chilly bins Lyttle had earlier told police he had in his ute. The photos certainly didn’t show firewood covering Hall’s body, as Lyttle described to Scott in his confession.
  • Lyttle told Scott he left his phone at home on the Sunday morning to avoid detection. But phone records show he had it with him and had used it.
  • He also claimed he knew where the CCTV cameras were and had avoided them on his way to dispose of Hall’s body. However, he was photographed eight times between 4.01am and 7.47am that morning, including at a service station, one of the most obvious places a camera would be.
  • Lyttle claimed he drove along the beach from Turakina Beach to Santoft Forest that morning, but CCTV footage shows him going south on the main road through Turakina.

Whanganui police Constable David Carter, left, and Constable Dion Kumeroa talk to resident Dennis Nicholson at Scotts Ferry, during investigations into Brett Hall’s disappearance.

  • He said he then drove from Santoft Forest along the coast to Himatangi Beach. However, even police accepted this was impossible as it required crossing the Rangitīkei River.
  • Lyttle’s claim he buried Hall’s legs in Santoft Forest on the Sunday morning conflicted with the fact there was a large Army exercise in the forest that morning, and nobody saw him in the area.
  • Police also had to accept it was simply impossible for Lyttle to have travelled from Santoft forest to Himatangi Beach, and buried and burnt Hall’s torso, in the two-hour window between CCTV sightings of him. (The driving time alone would have taken well over an hour.)
  • Lyttle’s claim he dug a hole at Himatangi Beach by hand, that was 2m deep and could hold 10 people, was “demonstrably false”, according to the Court of Appeal. When police tried to dig a hole in the same location, they found it impossible, as the sand kept caving in.
  • His story that he then burnt the body parts for two hours didn’t fit with sightings of him, and one expert said it was simply impossible to build a fire with enough heat to burn a body, in a hole that deep and damp, in that time. Nobody reported seeing any smoke or fire in either of the locations Lyttle said he burnt the body.

The Court of Appeal repeatedly called Lyttle’s story, “patently false”, “lacking credibility”, and found that it “could not be correct”.

“The inherent implausibility of Mr Lyttle’s assertions, and their lack of congruence with the objective evidence, lead us to the conclusion his admissions were, in all likelihood, made in order to convince Scott to allow him into the organisation so that he could reap the rewards he expected to receive.”

“A miscarriage of justice has occurred,” they concluded.

David Lyttle, while being sentenced to life in prison in 2019, for murdering his best friend, Brett Hall.

The court’s judgment quashing Lyttle’s conviction, and ruling all the Mr Big evidence was inadmissible, was released at midday on March 11, 2021.

Lyttle was immediately freed from prison, picked up by wife Helen, and was home in time to greet his youngest daughter when she returned from school.

By then, he had spent more than four years in jail, since his arrest in 2014.

In Auckland, conducting another trial, Hall and Stevenson celebrated with champagne that night at a restaurant.

But if they imagined their work was finished, or Lyttle thought his 10-year ordeal was over, they were set to be devastated.

Despite being left with little remaining evidence against Lyttle, prosecutor Michele Wilkinson-Smith indicated she intended to have him stand trial again.

Furious, Hall and Stevenson moved to have the charges dismissed, once and for all.

In a two-day hearing in late November 2021, they argued there was virtually nothing implicating Lyttle any more, other than police intractability, and snippets of benign behaviour that were being interpreted as sinister by the prosecutor.

It was, Stevenson said, “an elaborate theory without proof”.

Not only was there no body, no proof of a murder, no witnesses, and no forensics linking Lyttle to a crime, the alleged motive was preposterous.

As Elizabeth Hall pointed out, why would Lyttle kill Brett Hall, when he was just days away from being paid around $40,000 – money he desperately needed – for building the Pitangi house?

Moreover, there was clear evidence pointing to Brett Hall’s drug dealing associates being responsible – including information the police were aware of, but had kept from them

Crown prosecutor Michele Wilkinson-Smith, at David Lyttle’s first trial.

In response, Wilkinson-Smith pointed to other statements Lyttle made after his arrest that could suggest he was admitting to the crime, and ammunition and gun parts Lyttle led undercover officers to during the Mr Big operation, that were from the same type of firearms as the two rifles missing from Hall’s camp.

She insisted there was evidence showing Hall and Lyttle had fallen out over the house build, and highlighted Lyttle’s inconsistent statements, and his enthusiasm from very early in the investigation to point the finger at Hall’s drug dealing as the reason for his demise. (Wilkinson-Smith declined to comment for this story.)

Just over two weeks later, Justice Simon France issued his findings, dismissing all charges against Lyttle – the equivalent of an acquittal.

He said the Crown and police theory that Lyttle killed Brett Hall due to tensions over the building of Hall’s house, was “speculative at best”, and “lacks any real substance”

Two rifles were missing from Brett Hall’s property after he disappeared, and police appealed to the public for information about where they were.

Instead, he highlighted the alternative scenario that Hall’s death was the result of his association with “significant criminals”, and a major drug deal that weekend involving the co-owner of Hall’s property. (This person has never agreed to make a formal statement to police about Hall’s disappearance.)

“Evidence suggests the drug event did not go well. It is sufficient to say that, as a cohort, the persons concerning whom this evidence relates are a more likely source of harm to Mr Hall than Mr Lyttle.”

In a rare, unsparing judicial comment on the quality of a police investigation, Justice France said the drug dealing provided “a context and an explanation much more convincing than the alleged building project motive … the Crown’s motive evidence, in my view, is both thin in itself and an improbable motive for one good friend to kill another.”

He went on to acknowledge there was no direct evidence against Lyttle.

“It is a theory based on equivocal circumstances where there is no body, and no knowledge of how Mr Hall died. Further, there is an alternative context that provides a more compelling narrative.”

Just before Christmas, a brief court hearing was held to officially dismiss the charges against David Lyttle.

From his home in Halcombe, Lyttle watched the final act in 10 years of trials and trauma via video link with the court, holding hands with wife Helen, in front of the family’s Christmas tree.

One Response

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  1. Louisa ( Eric ) van der Lubbe. said, on 19/03/2011 at 8:32 pm

    Well, Britton does have some dodgy mates. I remember Roy Green very well from the age of 14. He joined a bird hunting day on the farm of a friend of mine, Kevin Kirkby in Springavle road, Wanganui.

    Roy was most impressed with the .177 pump action air rifle I was using and asked to try it. I agreed and he promptly and deliberately shot me in the back with it from a range of 5 feet. The shock and force knocked me to the ground but he wasn’t content with that, he also kicked me in the back.

    Why?…I’ll never know. A random act of crazed bullying that only went no further due to my friends intervention.

    Seems like he choses like minded nutters to associate with.

    Louisa.


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