Piopio home invasion trial: Teenager’s finger severed by father and son after burglary goes awry

William Burr, pictured, and his son Shaun are on trial in Hamilton High Court for cutting off a teenage burglar’s finger in 2020. Photo/NZME

WARNING: Graphical details may be disturbing.

A father and son are accused of cutting off a teenage burglar’s finger before kicking and punching the intruder on the kitchen floor, and assaulting the alleged burglar’s girlfriend after finding the couple in the father’s house.

Hamilton High Court heard that King Country farmer William Bruce Burr was twice victimized by the burglar, who stole Burr’s car from his home in Te Mapara, east of Piopio, several occasions until October 1, 2020.

This time, the 17-year-old burglar took his then-girlfriend – who both have name deletion – to Burr’s on Napinapi Rd in the early hours of the morning.

There, the couple searched Burr’s property in the living room before the girlfriend went to the bedroom where the man was sleeping.

Awoken by her, Burr argued with the girlfriend, Crown prosecutor Rebecca Mann told a Hamilton High Court jury this afternoon where Burr and her son are on trial.

Worried about what was happening to his girlfriend, the burglar went to her aid and hit Burr in the head with a bottle of wine.

At that point, Mann said, emotions were running high and Burr suddenly realized who the burglar was – having already been the victim of his offence.

Burr took his shotgun and “walked the frog” down the hall to the kitchen and ordered them to the ground.

With the pair under control, he called the police, his son Shaun Burr and his neighbors.

He called 111 at 1.54am about what happened, saying he would ‘blow their bloody heads off if they move’, and that he knew the identity of the 17-year-old years.

He then went on to warn that if the police didn’t show up he would “pull the f****** trigger soon”.

Shaun Burr arrived soon after and it was then, according to Mann, that father and son began “demanding retribution”.

The burglar was then “attacked”, although the two intruders posed no threat to anyone, Mann said, as they lay on the ground.

Angry at the audacity of his comeback, father and son unleashed a “torrent of violence”, with the teenager being hit in the head by Shaun Burr with pieces of wood that would soon shatter into pieces.

While this was happening, Burr Snr had pointed his shotgun at the boy.

The young man will testify that it was Burr Jr who punched and kicked him in the head first.

His former girlfriend will testify about how she heard wood breaking and Burr Jr saying “that’s what you get if you want to hurt daddy”.

The youngster was left with lacerations to his head, significant bruising and lying in a pool of blood.

But the violence would continue, the court said.

It was then that the boy was asked to place his right hand flat on the ground. Burr Jr took a kitchen knife and started cutting his little finger.

However, Mann said it was not a straightforward cut – instead “more of a hammering motion” was used.

The teenager couldn’t feel his hand anymore, Mann said. He will testify that Burr Jr was banging on the knife to cut off the finger which was eventually cut off.

The teenager was also said to have been told that his severed finger meant “it will teach you to steal, now people will know you are a thief”.

The beatings then continued, Mann said, with the boy receiving more kicks and punches to the head and body from Burr Jr and Snr.

Testimonies will also be given by neighbors who arrived to hear Burr Snr shout “I’m going to shoot the bastard” and saw the boy lying face down on the kitchen floor.

The neighbor will say he thought the teenager was dead and the couple were giving the intruder a “workover”.

About five minutes later, local police officer Tony Schrafft arrived. He grabbed the gun.

A police officer present would also testify to how Burr Snr pointed at the boy on the ground saying “that’s how you do it, you won’t be f****** doing that again”, before walk and stomp the lower back in full view of the officer.

They would also testify to how Burr Snr had the attitude that this was his home and he could do whatever he wanted.

A St John Ambulance officer would also testify to how Burr Snr protested giving the boy Nurofen for the pain.

The couple deny the charges of injury with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, injury with intent to injure, dismemberment with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and dismemberment with intent to injure.

Burr Snr faces two additional charges of assault and assault on a woman.

“It’s a matter of fear”

Burr Snr’s solicitor, Philip Morgan QC, told the jury all they heard were the two victims’ versions of events.

“There’s more to come,” he said. “You have to listen to evidence, assess people’s credibility and truthfulness, and apply common sense to what you’ve been told.”

He said all his client could have done was protect himself and his son “from the man he considered very, very dangerous indeed” because although the boy was only 17, he “had been a scary thing”.

“It wasn’t about retaliation. It’s about fear.”

Simon Lance, defense attorney for Shaun Burr, said the reality was that Burr Snr was the victim of a “violent home invasion” where he was attacked in his bedroom while he slept.

“[Boy] was armed. He had a knife. He weighed around 140 kg and the danger he posed was a permanent danger.”

The lawsuit would be about self-defense — or Burr Jr.’s defense of his father.

“He was pounding him with a stick”

The boy, now 19, was the first witness called.

His video interview was shown to the jury where he explained how a stick was used to “stick” the butter knife into his finger and help him slice it.

When Mann asked him what he was doing at the Burr house again, the boy replied “Oh, to pick up the car again”.

Showing pictures of the kitchen, he was asked what happened there and replied: “I have a hiding place on the floor”.

The Crown will call 20 witnesses throughout the five-day trial.

A jury of three women and nine men will deliberate on their fate. The trial is overseen by Judge Grant Powell.

• The boy was arrested and found guilty of aggravated burglary for his part in what happened. His girlfriend was taken into care by Youth Aid and attended a family group conference.

Both victims have automatic name removal due to their age at the time of the offence.

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