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Witnesses Tell Of Hearing Woman's Scream

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Christchurch, Jan 19 NZPA - Witnesses have told of hearing a woman's scream below them in a block of flats in Upper Riccarton, Christchurch, on the night the crown says Ashley Donald Peach murdered cats protection worker Kerry Leigh Downey.

A depositions hearing in Christchurch District Court was told today that Ms Downey had probably been manually strangled to death before her body was dumped down a bank in the suburb of Westmorland on the Port Hills.

Prosecutor Anna MacGougan detailed the evidence the crown says ties 41-year-old Peach to the woman's death.

That includes:

* Evidence from two men, who were in a flat above Peach's address in a block of flats in Riccarton Road, of hearing a woman's scream.

* Blood and vomit on three towels at his flat.

* Three items of Ms Downey's clothing at his flat as well as her handbag, wallet, and documents, including her Fly Buys card and her Cats Protection League notebook.

* Scratches on Peach's arm.

* Two Cats Protection League cages at the flat -- Ms Downey had gone there to pick up an unwanted cat that Peach telephoned about.

* Red hair on the carpet and on adhesive tape found at the flat and in the rubbish skip at the block of flats.

Miss MacGougan said the crown would call evidence from 29 witnesses during the depositions hearing, but only eight would give evidence in court. The rest would be handed up in written form. There would be 34 exhibits.

The hearing before John O'Hara and Bruce Dawson, Justices of the Peace, is expected to take two or three days.

Evidence will not be called at this preliminary hearing from the pathologist who examined Ms Downey's body, but Miss MacGougan said the primary cause of death was "a homicidal assault including neck compression most probably by manual strangulation".

She said Peach had phoned the Cats Protection League to get a cat picked up, and a witness saw a woman fitting Ms Downey's description arriving at the flat about 7pm on August 18. She was carrying a cat cage.

Ms Downey did not arrive at work the next day, and her colleagues began making inquiries to find her. That included phoning Peach.

Police searched his flat that evening and found two cages and three articles of Ms Downey's clothing.

At 8am, on August 20, Ms Downey's body was discovered down a bank on Worsley Road, Westmorland.

Miss MacGougan said the crown believed Ms Downey had been attacked and killed in Peach's flat and her own car had been used to carry her body to where it was dumped.

Three used condoms were found at the flat.

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