Messages sent to victim’s mother

A murder defendant sent messages to the victim’s mother saying she would let him know if she heard of Dale Watene’s death.

The trial of the two people accused of involvement in the murder of Mr Watene, 40, began on Monday before Judge Gerald Nation at the High Court in Invercargill.

Sandy Maree Graham (32) is charged with her murder in Otautau on April 16, 2020.

George Ivor Hyde (24) is charged with complicity after the fact for murder in Otautau between April 16 and April 27, 2020.

Mr Watene’s body was found around a month after his disappearance, in Longwood Forest buried in a shallow grave.

On Monday, Graham’s lawyer, Sarah Saunderson-Warner, said Mr Watene was shot but it was not done on purpose or with murderous intent.

Yesterday jurors heard that about a week after his death, Graham sent Christine Watene, Mr Watene’s mother, a friend request and started messaging her.

Ms Watene cried when Crown Attorney Mary-Jane Thomas read the messages sent between the two women on April 23.

Initially, Graham asked if Ms Watene was okay.

“It’s so messed up, do you have any idea where he might be. It’s all messed up and it’s not like Dale to do that,” Graham said.

Ms Watene replied that she felt hopeless, then said her son appeared to be fine when she spoke to him on the morning of April 16.

The couple spoke about Mr Watene and what could have happened to him, with both saying they didn’t think he would get hurt.

Graham’s first written statement was read out and part of his first interview with police was played in court yesterday.

On May 6, 2020, police searched Graham’s home saying they were now treating Mr Watene’s disappearance as a homicide investigation.

In the video interview conducted by Sergeant Frederick Shandley on the same day, Graham said the couple met in September 2019 and started a relationship, but it ended in December when Graham found a blowjob methamphetamine in Mr. Watene’s bag.

The couple continued to have sex after December, she said.

A police safety order was issued just weeks before Mr Watene died after police were called to escort him from Graham’s property when he became possessive about the former boyfriend of Graham.

However, when the command expired, the couple reconnected with each other.

Telecommunications information showed that Mr Watene had spent the days before his disappearance at Graham’s address and on a trip away from home with her. However, she said she did not recall him being at her house or on that trip.

The trial continues today.

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