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Ethan Dodds, accused of murdering Ben Mcintosh, spends second day in witness box

Author
Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Fri, 8 Mar 2024, 5:12pm
Police attend the scene at Harold Moody Park in Glen Eden where Benjamin Mcintosh was shot to death in June 2022. Photo / Hayden Woodward
Police attend the scene at Harold Moody Park in Glen Eden where Benjamin Mcintosh was shot to death in June 2022. Photo / Hayden Woodward

Ethan Dodds, accused of murdering Ben Mcintosh, spends second day in witness box

Author
Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Fri, 8 Mar 2024, 5:12pm

When authorities searched murder suspect Ethan Dodds’ home - weeks after Ben Mcintosh was shot to death in what appeared to police to be a robbery of his methamphetamine stash and cash - they found a notebook in his bedroom that prosecutors would later refer to as his “steps to success”. 

“Redemption” was scrawled in all caps at the top of the Star Wars-branded stationery, encircled by a doodled cloud and followed by eight bullet points: “no phones”, “no weak links”, “homework”, “no rash decisions”, “right equipment”, “transportation”, “alibi” and “no witnesses”. 

It sounded, prosecutor Brett Tantrum suggested today in the High Court at Auckland, like a step-by-step plan for a robbery. 

“Is that something that you lived by?” he asked as Dodds spent the bulk of his second day in the witness box under cross-examination. 

“It’s not my writing,” the defendant replied, denying any knowledge of the page. 

Tantrum then went through how each bullet point could have applied to the last moments of Mcintosh’s life, including the agreed facts that Dodds didn’t bring his phone with him, he was joined by his trusted lifelong friend, he’d brought “equipment” in the form of an illegal firearm and his mother had lied to police in an attempt to give him an alibi. Those were all coincidences and it wasn’t his checklist, Dodds reiterated. 

Dodds, 24, and co-defendant Julius “Pete East” Te Hivaka, 27, are accused of having shot Mcintosh at close range with a sawn-off semi-automatic rifle early on the morning of June 3, 2022, after luring him to Glen Eden’s Harold Moody Park under the guise of wanting to purchase a gram of methamphetamine from the small-scale dealer. 

Yesterday, Dodds was called as the first witness for the defence and admitted immediately that he was holding the firearm when it went off. But that was never the intention, he said, demonstrating for jurors how he said he cleared the gun of bullets before leaving his Hillsborough home. The idea all along, he said, had been to “scare” the person he had never met because he’d suspected Mcintosh of having months earlier pulled a gun on a friend’s mother. 

“It happened so fast. It was like a reflex,” he told jurors yesterday of the gun going off after Mcintosh appeared as though he was about to bolt from the car. “I can’t really explain it. I guess I was trying to grab him or something.” 

He added today: “This is my truth. I’m owning up. This was an accident. This was a mistake. This is a stupid ass thing that happened.” 

Dodds acknowledged moments later he did take Mcintosh’s bag containing the methamphetamine and his wallet after he was shot, but the defendant said it was an afterthought rather than part of a plan to rob the victim. 

“I was in shock,” he said. “Why I took the bag that was on the console, I don’t even know - straight up.” 

Ethan Dodds, accused of murdering Ben Mcintosh, appears in the High Court at Auckland. Photo / Dean PurcellEthan Dodds, accused of murdering Ben Mcintosh, appears in the High Court at Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell 

CCTV footage from his Hillsborough home showed him, his brother and his mother hastily leaving their residence later that morning after Dodds returned home from the shooting. Dodds insisted today his family was completely in the dark about what had happened. They left so suddenly, he reckoned, because they could see he was panicking for some reason and it was out of character for him, he said. 

“They must have known something was wrong,” he said. 

The family drove to Cambridge, Waikato, and Dodds said he threw Mcintosh’s drugs out the window while on the motorway so his family wouldn’t “get suspicious” about what happened. 

Tantrum suggested he was lying about the drug disposal, replaying for jurors an eight-second video that Dodds had sent to co-defendant Te Hivaka later that night in which he jokingly threatened to “smoke your half of the bag” if he didn’t arrive there shortly. That wasn’t a reference to Mcintosh’s drugs, Dodds responded. He and Te Hivaka shared everything, he added, explaining it would be incorrect to interpret “your half” as a reference to robbery proceeds. 

The defendant insisted throughout his two days of testimony that neither Te Hivaka nor a third co-defendant - Tamirah Baker, charged with accessory after the fact to murder - had any idea he was planning to bring a gun with him on the morning they met Mcintosh. Whenever he was asked for names of people other than the defendants or his family, he refused to answer. 

Ben Dekoy Mcintosh. Photo / GivealittleBen Dekoy Mcintosh. Photo / Givealittle 

Baker had been Mcintosh’s on-again-off-again girlfriend and the Crown suggested she played a critical part in the alleged robbery by helping to set Mcintosh up. She spent the hours before the shooting in the company of her co-defendants and, at other times, with the victim. 

But six days after the shooting, Baker and Dodds would be arrested together after a pursuit in a stolen car that police forced off the road. Dodds acknowledged today by that time he and Baker were seeing each other. It was a new romance, though: he had barely known her in the hours before the shooting a week earlier, he said. 

He also hadn’t ever met Mcintosh in person before the accidental shooting, he said. 

Prosecutors again suggested he wasn’t telling the truth, pointing to a text that Mcintosh had sent to Baker amid an argument the night before his death. It read, in part: “tell ur new bf come try and take my shit anytime f***ing clown tryna look tuff in front of u hahahaha gudbye.” 

“That’s not me,” Dodds said of the reference to Baker’s “new bf” or boyfriend. 

The other defendants will get a chance to announce if they want to testify next week. The trial resumes on Monday before Justice Graham Lang and the jury. 

Craig Kapitan is an Auckland-based journalist covering courts and justice. He joined the Herald in 2021 and has reported on courts since 2002 in three newsrooms in the US and New Zealand. 

- NZ Herald

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