With a backdrop of starlit tranquility, the remote campground stood paradoxically as the stage for a nightmarish scene. Adrian Humphreys, a 57-year-old outdoor enthusiast, emerged from his camper, severely wounded with multiple stab injuries to his torso. Devastatingly, despite desperate efforts for aid, he succumbed to his injuries merely 20 metres from his home away from home.
Lurking nearby, a 17-year-old suspect known as Justice Williamson-Atkinson allegedly discarded the murder weapon before hastily returning to his shelter, a simple pup tent. Currently, he stands trial before Justice Francis Cooke at the High Court in New Plymouth. Accusations ranging from burglary to murder colour his list of charges, all of which he denies.
As the trial unfolded, Crown prosecutor Jo Woodcock presented her allegations. She claimed the accused and an accomplice had forced entry into Humphreys’ camper with the intent of grand theft auto. Struggling to locate the car keys, Williamson-Atkinson supposedly inflicted fatal injuries to Humphreys in a desperate attempt to accomplish the theft or conceal his intention.
However, the suspect’s defence lawyer, Matthew Phelps, vehemently refuted these claims, casting the blame upon his client’s companion, asserting it was he who committed the crime.
At the time of the incident, both teenagers were part of the Start Taranaki programme, catering to at-risk youth. They resided at Bushlands Campground, in eastern Taranaki, along with another youth and three programme mentors. Adrian Humphreys, coincidentally, arrived on the same day. He was eager to indulge his fondness for the outdoors there, somewhere he had visited just weeks before with his newly acquired camper trailer.
Springing a dreadful surprise, his lifeless body was discovered by programme mentors near the campground’s kitchen the following morning, marking a gruesome end to a man who was an anaesthetic technician at Southern Cross Healthcare, and formerly a resident of the United Kingdom.
In her elucidation, Woodcock propounded that Williamson-Atkinson and his unnamed friend had grown tired of their rural Taranaki existence. They resolved to escape, hatching a scheme to steal a vehicle to facilitate their escape. This plan became the precursor to the traumatic events that followed.
Justice Williamson-Atkinson’s tent, according to Woodcock, revealed evidence of Humphreys’ blood and clothing fibres nearby, indicating his involvement. Despite the murder weapon’s absence, suggestions were made of it being disposed of in a river. Woodcock postulated that Williamson-Atkinson confessed to the murder, a claim his lawyer dismisses.
In his defence, Williamson-Atkinson asserted his innocence, laying the blame on his friend. He admitted to being present shortly after the incident but denied direct involvement.
In an attempt to unravel the truth, the court anticipates calling upon 40 witnesses over the course of the four-week trial. Among the initial witnesses was youth worker Kajin Phillips. He suggested a hierarchical relationship between Williamson-Atkinson and his unnamed friend, in which the latter was the dominant figure.
In the wake of these chilling events, their relationship, according to Philips, had become equal. This detail adds an additional layer of complexity, as the trial endeavors to piece together the tragic puzzle of Adrian Humphreys’ untimely demise.