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Murder charge against Wellington man dropped

Charges against a Wellington man for the death of Zena Campbell last year have been dismissed.

Paddy Woods outside the High Court in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

The body of Ms Campbell, 21, was found in a parked car in central Wellington in February last year. Mr Woods had pleaded not guilty to murder and his jury trial was due to start today.

Justice David Collins, dismissing the charge at the High Court in Wellington, said evidence showed strangulation was not considered to be a substantial cause of Ms Campbell’s death.

That meant the jury could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Woods caused the death, he said.

“I am satisfied that a jury properly directed could not be reasonably satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Woods caused the death of Ms Campbell, accordingly [he] could not reasonably be convicted of either murder or manslaughter.”

Judge Collins’ decision was substantially based on a revised brief of evidence from a Crown pathologist. Her evidence explained there was some evidence of compression on Ms Campbell’s neck, but it could not confidently be said to have caused her death.

The judge acknowledged the family and friends of Ms Campbell in court, and told them it was not his task to determine the cause of her death but to administer the law.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of Ms Campbell’s death.

Ms Campbell’s father Chris said outside court the dismissal of the charges did not bring him any closure. “It doesn’t bring her back, no matter what,” he said.