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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Because the victim had closed up the service station and would not serve him
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 16, 1979
Date of arrest: January 2012 (32 years after)
Date of birth: 1941
Victim profile: Rodney Tahu, 32 (service station worker)
Method of murder: Shooting (.22 revolver)
Location: Turangi, Waikato Region, North Island, New Zealand
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on July 12, 2013

Menzies Hallett sentenced to life for cold case murder

July 12, 2013

Relatives of a Turangi service station worker gunned down 34 years ago say justice has finally been done after his murderer was sentenced to life in prison.

Menzies Hallett is likely to die in jail, the High Court at Rotorua heard today, as Justice Ailsa Duffy sentenced the 72-year-old to life in prison for the 1979 murder of Rodney Tahu.

It is believed to be New Zealand's oldest cold case to result in arrest.

Outside court, Tahu family spokesman Colin Hair, who is married to Mr Tahu's widow, said at last the family would be able to put the case behind them.

"I think justice has finally been done,'' he said. "We will wake up tomorrow and start again.''

Mr Hair was asked what the Tahu family would do now the case was over.

''[We will] take a breather and think about things,'' he said. ``Justice is something that needs to be done, I'm not sure it needs to be celebrated.''

His wife was not present at the sentencing, but Mr Hair confirmed she was ``nearby'' and had been told of the sentence.

A minimum non-parole term was not imposed, as in 1979 a court was unable to do so. However Justice Duffy said in effect, he would not become eligible for parole until he had served 10 years.

Justice Duffy told Hallett he had showed "little or no remorse" for the "cruel, senseless" murder. She said that attitude had continued throughout the process, with him refusing to discuss his offending with the pre-sentence report writer.

During sentencing one of Tahu's sisters read a victim impact statement on behalf of his siblings.

She said the family had lived for 33 years with the "horror" of the brutal way in which their beloved and respected husband, father and brother had died and with knowing the man who did it had walked free for 33 years.

"We will never be the same again. The accused [Hallett] changed that for ever. "

Rotorua crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch told the judge the murder had been particularly cruel.

"It was nothing short of an execution of the deceased."

Hallett's lawyer, Paul Mabey QC, told the judge his client had health issues and the reality was he would "die in prison".

Mr Mabey argued a life sentence would be "manifestly unjust" because of the time taken for the prosecution to bring the case and Hallett's personal circumstances.

He referred to Hallett's contribution to the community as a businessman both before and after the murder.

"If we take the 72 years, the single serious blemish was what happened in 1979."

Justice Duffy said that could not reduce the gravity of what he had done, although she acknowledged imprisonment now was likely to have a harsher effect on Hallett than if he had been jailed as a younger man.

During the trial the jury heard how Hallett pulled into the closed Shell service station in the early hours of August 16, 1979 wanting oil for his car. Mr Tahu refused to re-open so Hallett called him a "black b******" then shot three times - the first shot missed, the second one hit Mr Tahu in the shoulder. Hallett then stood over the 32-year-old father-of-two and shot him through the head.

Hallett confessed to his estranged wife hours after the killing and was charged with murder. However the law of the time prevented people giving evidence against their spouse so he never stood trial.

After the law changed in 2006, the case was re-opened and Hallett was again charged, with his ex-wife the main Crown witness.


Man sentenced over 30-year-old murder

By Aaron Leaman -

July 12, 2013

The family of murdered service station worker Rodney Tahu say there will be no celebration tonight after his killer was jailed.

Whanau and friends of Tahu gathered at the High Court in Rotorua this morning as Menzies Hallett was sentenced to life imprisonment for the unprovoked killing.

Justice Ailsa Duffy did not impose a minimum non-parole period, but Hallett will have to serve 10 years before being eligible for parole with the court hearing that due to ill health Hallett could die in prison.

Hallett, 72, was earlier found guilty of murdering Tahu outside a Turangi service station on August 16, 1979.

Speaking outside court Tahu family spokesman Colin Hair said there were no winners and losers from the case and there would be no celebration for the family.

"It's been a grueling 18 months [since Hallett's arrest] and a gruelling 30 years [since the murder]."

Hair said he had taken over raising Tahu's children and shared their grief for decades.

Gordon Clout, a friend of Hallett, said he would continue to support his friend and wife Joan.

He said he did not know what the Maori word for forgiveness was, but hoped Tahu's family could find it for his friend.

During his High Court trial, Hallett admitted shooting Tahu at close range but said he hadn't intended to kill him.

He retracted that admission before the trial ended.

In today's sentencing Justice Duffy said Hallett's offending had been "cowardly and callous" as had his actions in covering up the crime for three decades.

Speaking earlier, Hair said the family would be be sceptical of any expressions of remorse by Hallett.

"It's of no consequences to us whether he does or doesn't show remorse because the reality is he's had ample opportunity to do so and hasn't," Hair said.

"Now that he has been caught and convicted it's all very well and good to make an expression of remorse but one would have to question the sincerity of that under the circumstances.

"What makes this case so different is the passage of time; it's been 30-odd years to get to this point."

Hallett shot petrol attendant Tahu with a .22 revolver on the night of August 16, 1979, because Tahu had closed up the service station and would not serve him.

Hallett called Tahu a "black bastard" and fired three shots at him.

One hit Tahu in the shoulder and a second missed.

Hallett then fired a final fatal shot at Tahu's head from close range.


Hallett trial: No evidence for provocation defence

By Heather McCracken -

May 15, 2013

Convicted killer Menzies Hallett was refused the defence of provocation because no ordinary New Zealander faced with the same circumstances would have shot Rodney Tahu, a judge found.

Judge Duffy found there was no evidence for a partial defence of provocation, so it was not put to the jury during Hallett's trail in the High Court in Rotorua in April.

The reasons for the finding were released by the High Court yesterday.

Hallett was found guilty of shooting service station worker Mr Tahu in 1979 after he refused to re-open the service station to allow Hallett to buy oil.

Hallett had been drinking and was angry about a dispute with his former wife when he arrived at the service station in Turangi.

When Mr Tahu refused to re-open, Hallett called him a "black bastard". When Mr Tahu stepped towards him, Hallett shot him in the shoulder and then in the head while Mr Tahu was lying on the ground.

Judge Duffy said to use a defence of provocation it would need to be considered whether Mr Tahu's actions or words were enough to deprive an ordinary person the power of self-control to the point where he or she would have shot at him.

"I found it impossible to imagine any ordinary New Zealander who was met with the circumstances confronting Mr Hallett, acting in the way that the Crown's evidence portrayed," Judge Duffy's decision said.

"In my view, faced with the conduct of Mr Tahu that night, no ordinary New Zealander would resort to firing shots in the vicinity of Mr Tahu, let alone at him."

The defence of provocation was repealed in December 2009, but was available to Hallett as it was still in place when the crime took place in 1979.

Also released today was Judge Duffy's reasons for allowing Hallett's former wife's evidence to be heard.

Hallett had confessed to his wife after the shooting, but in 1979 the law prevented her from giving evidence against him. The Evidence Act 2006 removed this prohibition, after which the police laid a fresh charge against Hallett.

During the trail last month, Hallett objected to the evidence on the grounds the 2006 Act did not apply at the time of the confession.

This was rejected on the basis the 2006 Act was a change in procedure, rather than a removal of any substantive right Mr Hallett may have previously held.

Hallett then made a fresh objection that his former wife's evidence was inadmissible as a confidential communication, which was also rejected.

Hallett will be sentenced on July 12.


The lives and times of a cold case killer

Menzies Hallett's friends thought they knew him - until his murderous past came spilling out in court

By Jamie Morton -

May 4, 2013

Yachtsman, musician, insurance agent, husband, father - and convicted murderer.

Friends and former associates of Menzies Hallett have told the Weekend Herald of a confident extrovert whose happy-go-lucky nature appeared to have concealed a dark past for more than three decades.

They could only watch in disbelief when it all came spilling out in the High Court at Rotorua over the past two weeks - the rage, the gun, the murder, the shock confession police couldn't use.

How could their old mate, now 72, be the same man who stood in the dock expressionless as a jury found him guilty of shooting dead an innocent family man at a service station nearly 34 years ago?

"Over the past few days I've been trying to get my head around the evidence presented at the trial, as the Menzies Hallett I know would not do such a brutal act to an innocent man," Gordon Clout said of his long-time friend.

But the whanau of Rodney Tahu, who held a private ceremony at their murdered loved one's gravesite on Thursday, know a different Menzies Hallett.

Menzies Reginald John Hallett came from a respected family - its name was given to Halletts Bay, on the eastern shore of Lake Taupo.

Taupo Mayor Rick Cooper described Hallett as having been "well bred" and his parents, Walter "Reg" and Effie Hallett, were well liked in the community.

Hallett married his first wife, Susan, in the mid-1960s and they raised two daughters in Palmerston North, Hallett working in his father's sporting goods store, before they all moved to Taupo.

A keen sailor, Hallett was well known at the local yacht club and throughout business circles of the sleepy lakeside town.

After their marriage broke up in the late 1970s, Susan shifted to Wellington and Hallett stayed in Taupo, working as a real estate agent and living at a bach at the back of his parents' house.

He had been excited about having both daughters come to live with him and his new partner Margaret Murray at a home he was renovating across town.

Hallett was preparing to head down to Palmerston North to pick up one of his daughters and some furniture when he got a letter from Susan, denying him custody.

Margaret said her partner was "not his usual happy self" after reading it, her "positive" and "full-of-life" man suddenly becoming worryingly depressed.

Angry and emotional, Hallett drove south to ask his daughter herself where she wanted to live, but fate and a rattle from his Ford Falcon 500 sent him to Turangi's Shell station, where nightshift worker Rodney Tahu was closing up just after 1am on August 16, 1979.

Mr Tahu couldn't help him and Hallett hit "flash point" - drawing his prized .22 revolver and shooting him once in the shoulder, then in the head at close range.

Susan Sharpe, who declined to talk to this newspaper, listened to her estranged husband confess this to her a few hours later, before he left her Wellington apartment and she alerted the police.

Rex Hawkins vaguely knew Hallett - but well enough to tell he and fellow detective Doug Scott were dealing with a much different person when he refused to come out of his car in an early-morning armed stand-off on a rural road off the Napier-Taupo Road.

Hallett wounded himself with a surprise blast from his shotgun - and Mr Hawkins still isn't sure whether he had tried to aim at police or to turn the gun on himself.

Hallett's boss at the time, Phil Gardner, earlier told the Weekend Herald of his shock when he discovered what his well-spoken colleague at his real estate agency had been involved in. "It was strange, especially when I got a call pretty early in the morning to put some clothes on and come up to the hospital."

When Hallett walked free over a lack of evidence because the law prevented his wife's damning testimony from reaching the court, he moved out of town - but not far.

Leaving one outraged community behind, Menzies Hallett adopted another. He became John Hallett of Rotorua, and got involved in life insurance.

Mr Clout, a Taupo accountant, had known him through their daughters and agreed to handle his books in the early 1980s.

He said Hallett remained fun, jovial and positive, but he suspected things weren't so bright underneath.

"Hallett has probably suffered in his own internal prison with a guilty conscience every day for the past 34 years."

Warwick Nunns met Hallett in the mid-1980s when he moved in with him, and believed it was on a fishing trip to Lake Waikaremoana that his friend eventually revealed his black past.

"It just came from totally out of the blue. He started off very matter-of-fact about it and he went through the tale and the narration continued and I could see he was very emotional about it.

"It appeared to me that he wanted to share it with me for some reason so I gave him credit for telling me for the right reasons ... Obviously there was regret there. I think he was very regretful."

The pair bonded - Hallett would eventually become one of the groomsmen at his wedding and Mr Nunns attended both the funerals of Hallett's parents - and found they shared outdoor interests, including going to boat shows and fishing.

"When John told me what he had done I really did see it as a total aberration. It was very hard to believe that this had happened but then of course I knew the John Hallett a few years after the event - I didn't know the person he was back then."

Hallett was hardworking, often coming home for dinner then returning to his office in central Rotorua where he wrote insurance policies.

He also carried on his love of sailing, and served as commodore of a Lake Rotoiti-based yacht squadron, sailing a Noelex.

David Jacks, a former Rotorua school principal, knew Hallett as a keen drummer who attended regional music camps and informal concerts.

"I'm sure there were rumours, but I couldn't accept them - he was there, he was a musician and he was a nice guy ... and we had no problems as far as we were concerned."

But Mr Nunns said that knowing his good friend had committed this crime had challenged him over the years.

"But I was never scared or worried about him. I could see that this wasn't in his nature as I knew him and I didn't see anything to suggest there was violence in his nature."

Beverley Emmerson, who met Hallett through a personal advertisement in the late 1980s, sensed the same. But her initial view of Hallett as "credible" and extroverted sharply changed when he again confided his past - and she walked away two months into the relationship.

Hallett met his second wife, Shona, in the late 1980s when she shifted into the region.

She declined to be interviewed yesterday, but her brother, Gary Watts, said there were some warning signs before the two were married.

"My nephew, who was from Taupo, he told Shona before they got married that he had a bit of a shady history, so they must have had a fair idea."

Mr Watts recalled his one-time brother-in-law as an enthusiastic photographer who had the latest gear and "always had flash cars".

"He's quite an interesting character, and he really sucked us in ... We thought he was a genuine guy."

Not long after divorcing in the early 1990s, Hallett met his current wife, Joan, a British expat who had been a theatre nurse.

It is not known whether Hallett told her about the murder, and she refused to comment when approached at their brick unit in Carnot St, Rotorua.

Mr Nunns said Hallett worked in other jobs, running a screenprinting business, working as a Herald delivery agent and later as a finance and mortgage broker, but never achieved the wealth he sought.

He was receiving superannuation but still connected with the real estate industry when time caught up with him.

Detectives approached him as he was buying a corned-beef sandwich at a local bakery - a law change enabling Susan Sharpe to testify triggering a year of case-building.

A neighbour told the Weekend Herald how he had accidentally driven into her car, and her surprise when he told her of his arrest while sorting out the insurance details.

Mr Nunns last spoke with Hallett this week in the court cells, directly after he had given evidence at histrial.

Hallett apologised to him for putting him in that position, he said.

"There was only one word that sprung to mind - and that was just that he looked a little resigned."

Mr Jacks said he was taken aback when his friend's face was suddenly splashed across the media.

"The whole thing in a way seemed out of character ... Menzies Hallett murdering someone? You just couldn't believe it."

But Colin Hair, who married Rodney Tahu's widow, Hana, two years after the murder, wasn't so shocked.

He had always known what Hallett had done, and that he was living nearby - but he chose to keep from Mr Tahu's sons the identity of their father's killer.

"I think time went on and we just got on with our lives ... but it never went away, it was always there in the background, and from time to time it would raise its head," he said yesterday.

"At the back of my mind, there was always the thought that if they knew who this guy was, and what if they happened to bump into him in the street, how would they react ... I was conscious that the outcome of that might not be good for anybody."

And Mr Hair was not surprised Hallett had been able to live with his secret for so long.

"It certainly wouldn't be part of my make-up to be able to do that ... to just walk away and say, 'Ho hum, I don't care about anyone else.'

"I think it's just indicative of the opinion that I have formed over the last couple of weeks ... that Hallett has always thought the world revolved around him."


Cold case verdict: 'We can all move on'

By James Ihaka -

May 1, 2013

There were emotional scenes outside the High Court at Rotorua this afternoon as a family joined together and sang, finally having received closure over the murder of a loved one nearly 34 years ago.

The family of Rodney Tahu were seen to cry and lean on one another as Menzies Reginald John Hallett was found guilty of his murder at a Turangi service station in 1979.

It came at the end of a week and a half long trial that had heard how Hallett, now 72, had gunned Mr Tahu down in a "flash point" of rage but had lived free for the last three decades.

Outside court, tearful whanau of Mr Tahu hugged Detective Inspector Mark Loper, who led the cold case after it was re-opened two and a half years ago.

Law changes meant Hallett's former wife could give crucial evidence against him - without it, the original murder case against him had faltered.

"I think let's for a moment go back to 1979... and I think if you'd asked anybody then, you would've said he was a good bloke, he was a man who worked hard, who was well respected in his community," an emotional family spokesman Colin Hair said of Mr Tahu following the verdict.

"He loved his family and his wife and his two daughters.

"Nobody could have known on that particular night when he went about his normal day to day business that somebody he'd never met - a perfect stranger - would turn up with a loaded firearm and would shoot him and the family were naturally devastated at that point.. and were further devastated when an anomaly in the law at that stage meant he walked free until now.. some 33, nearly 34 years ago.

"You have to understand that the events of the last 13 or 14 months since the arrest, the trial, the media coverage and everything has re-opened those old wounds and to some extent has rubbed them a little bit more over the last week or so but I think now we are in a position where we can put some closure to this... and we can all move on."

"I think the hardest part is we've always known who was responsible for this, as I said, it was an anomaly in the law that allowed it to go by, and I've got to say, on behalf of the whole family, a huge thanks to the police for their tenacious work.. and not just the work the current team have done, but the original outstanding work that was done."

Mr Loper acknowledged how hard it had been for the family.

"All files, especially homicide files, are reviewed regularly, and this was one of those cases," he said.

"So you know, through time, people [who are involved in such cases] might think that they may be free to reign and have stopped looking over their shoulder, but this was a classic case where sometimes the police will come and tap you on the shoulder."

Yesterday Crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch said during his closing submissions that the 72-year-old had retracted an earlier admission that he had killed the father of two.

The stunning revelation came a day after three separate witnesses - Hallett's ex-wife Susan Sharpe, a flatmate of his from the mid-1980s and a woman he briefly dated later that decade - all gave evidence stating that the former real estate agent and musician admitted to them that he had killed Mr Tahu.

The defence called no witnesses nor did Hallett give any testimony.

Mr Mabey said Hallet was innocent until proven guilty, if the jury returned a verdict "based on fairness and objectivity then no one can complain about that".

Earlier, the Crown prosecutor said it was Hallett's right to change his mind. Mr Pilditch said things happened in trial and things changed "and there's nothing particularly remarkable about that".

He said there were just two issues for the jury to consider - whether Hallett killed Mr Tahu, and if so, did he have murderous intent.

The Crown said Hallett was in a belligerent mood after receiving a letter from his wife.
The court heard how there was some dialogue that Hallett might get custody of their children, but Ms Sharpe refused. His oldest daughter also said she did not want to stay with him.

He arrived at the Turangi Shell service station just after 1am after hearing a rattling noise in his car and demanded some oil from Mr Tahu, who had just closed up.

After calling Mr Tahu a "black bastard" when he refused to sell him some oil, Hallett is alleged to have used his .22 revolver to shoot the 31-year-old twice.

"As the accused looked down on Mr Tahu injured on the ground, he took aim for a third and final time with a certain knowledge that pulling the trigger would end his life," said Mr Pilditch.

"And Mr Hallett pulled the trigger."

"The Crown's case is that he is guilty of nothing short of murder."

Hallett will be sentenced on July 12.


Murder accused Menzies Hallett makes shock retraction

By James Ihaka -

April 30, 2013

The man accused of murdering Turangi service station attendant Rodney Tahu has made a shock retraction of an earlier admission that he had killed the father of two.

Menzies Hallett is on trial for the murder of Mr Tahu who was gunned down after he completed a shift at the Turangi Shell service station on August 16, 1979.

During his closing submission this morning, Crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch told the court Hallett had retracted an earlier admission that he had shot and killed Mr Tahu.

He told the jury of nine women and three men there were just two issues to consider.

"The issues really are two; was it the accused and if so did he have murderous intent?"

The Crown alleges Hallett shot Mr Tahu twice, once in the shoulder and a second shot to the head.

"The accused looked down on Mr Tahu injured on the ground," said Mr Pilditch.

He took aim for a third and final time with a certain knowledge that pulling the trigger would end his life - and Mr Hallett pulled the trigger."

"The Crown's case is that he is guilty of nothing short of murder."

This morning Hallett's defence didn't call any witnesses.

In his closing submission, defence lawyer Paul Mabey QC said the jury need to remove all their emotion from their decision making.

In his opening last week, Mr Mabey told the jury Hallett accepted he was the man who shot Mr Tahu but the issue would be whether it was murder or manslaughter.

Court has now been adjourned until 10am tomorrow morning, when the judge will sum up the case before sending the jury out to consider its verdict.


Ex-wife tells of gun flung on bed

By Jamie Morton -

April 30, 2013

A woman has described how her former husband showed her the revolver he allegedly used to gun down a service station worker more than 30 years ago, throwing it on her bed and saying: "There it is."

Susan Sharpe is a key Crown witness in the cold case murder trial of her former husband, Menzies Reginald John Hallett.

The Crown alleges a dispute between the pair over custody of their children enraged Hallett and sparked his "flash point", leading him to shoot Turangi Shell station attendant Rodney Tahu in the early hours of August 16, 1979.

Laws at the time meant Mrs Sharpe could not testify, weakening the Crown's unsuccessful original case against Hallett, but reforms to the Evidence Act overturning this led police to reopen the 33-year-old file last year.

At the High Court at Rotorua yesterday, sobs could be heard from Mr Tahu's family in the public gallery as Mrs Sharpe told how Hallett arrived at her Wellington apartment early in the morning and described to her what he had done just a few hours earlier.

The night before, Hallett had phoned up "drunk" and angry about a letter she had written denying him custody of their two daughters, whom he wanted to live with him in Taupo, she said.

Early the next morning, Mrs Sharpe "heard a voice at my window saying, 'Sue ... Sue ...' in a very soft sort of a tone".

Mrs Sharpe let Hallett in, chatted with him, and made him a coffee, but it was when she was wanting to leave for work that he said there was something he needed to tell her, she told the court.

"He said, 'Sue, I've killed someone ... killed someone in Turangi'."

Hallett appeared "calm and normal" when he revealed this, leaving Mrs Sharpe in "disbelief".

She said Hallett had been driving south to sort their differences out when he heard a rattle in his vehicle, pulled into the Turangi service station and, needing oil, asked the attendant for help.

Hallett reacted angrily when he was refused because the station had just closed, calling the worker a "black bastard", she said.

The worker approached Hallett, who allegedly drew his pistol and fired at him, missing once.

"He said he'd fired another shot and the man fell over saying, 'Help, help, help,' and then he just walked over to him and shot him in the head.

Hallett then "turned around and walked away ... and he couldn't look back".

Mrs Sharpe said Hallett not only told her what gun he had used, but showed her.

"He pulled it out of his belt and threw it on the bed and he said 'there it is' and it lay there for the rest of the morning."

Mrs Sharpe was "very familiar" with the pistol - Hallett had even slept with it under his pillow during their honeymoon, she said.

At 8 o'clock that morning, she said Hallett suggested tuning in to the radio news "to see if it really did happen or whether it was a dream".

"So I turned the radio on - and it was on - and he made a comment that he was amazed how long it took for the body to be found."

Hallett then began considering heading to the South Island, where he could dump his weapons or take his own life, she said.

Mrs Sharpe told defence counsel Paul Mabey, QC, that Hallett had been calm when talking to her at first: "A little later on, a few little tears came and a little shudder ... but that was about the sum total of his emotion."

Mrs Sharpe alerted the police and Hallett was arrested the next day after a stand-off with police near the Napier-Taupo Rd.

He was charged with Mr Tahu's murder a few days later.

A former flatmate of Hallett's, Warwick Nunns, also told the court how Hallett gave a "brief account" of the murder to him one night in the 1980s.

"My only query to him was ... why was he still a free man?" Mr Nunns said.

"He told me that the rules of evidence didn't apply at the time and a case couldn't be brought against him for a lack of evidence."

A former girlfriend, Beverley Emmerson, also testified Hallett had told her he had "been involved in this murder and he had shot someone".

The trial continues today.


Menzies Hallett
(Mark Taylor/


The victim

Hallett shot petrol attendant Rodney Tahu with a .22 revolver on the night of August 16, 1979, because Tahu had closed up the service station and would
not serve him.



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