Paua debt link to alleged hit
13 May 2006
By DEBORAH DIAZThe alleged hitman in a Triad shooting may have killed his "very good brother" for $10,000 because of a debt from the illegal paua trade, a court has been told.
Tam Yam Ah, 37, was shot once in the chest by a masked assassin outside an Auckland karaoke bar in July last year.
In Auckland District Court yesterday, Wellington man Chow Wan Yee – nicknamed Gao Lo, or the Tall Man – was committed to trial for Tam's murder. He had earlier pleaded not guilty.
A key witness in the case is a self-confessed "petty criminal" from Hutt Valley who claims to have driven Chow, 53, to Auckland to collect a paua debt.
Tam was shot instead and, after a panicked drive south, the handgun used in the killing was concealed in a paint bucket and buried in scrub on Hayward's Hill.
Chow's lawyer, Peter Kaye, advised that the evidence presented to the court had yet to be tested.
Crown prosecutor Emma Barrett made successful applications to suppress the identities of all civilian witnesses so publicity did not discourage them from taking part in the trial.
The witness, who has an extensive criminal record, said he had known Chow for a decade and they were, at times, partners in crime.
Chow had asked him to go on a debt-collection mission to Auckland and, before leaving Wellington on July 6, the accused had met some men at a restaurant.
During the drive north, Chow allegedly confided that they would collect $10,000 from one of the men on their return.
The witness claimed they reached Auckland about dusk and first set about watching Tam's Flower City Restaurant in Anzac Ave before parking near his flat, which was above the Symonds St karaoke bar.
There Chow put on a balaclava, took a handgun from a bag in the boot and tucked it in his pants, then left the witness in the car. While waiting, the witness had to go to the toilet and – as he went into some bushes – heard a bang.
Chow came back two or three minutes later. The witness "started to freak out and felt dizzy".
He claimed Chow told him: "Only you and me know about this murder. The police don't know, the gang members don't know, no one knows that it was us.
"Now if I get charged, you get charged, that means you said something to the police and your life will be in danger."
The witness claimed he helped bury the gun and that he also dumped the balaclava along with two guns and his own ammunition on Paekakariki Hill.
When he spoke to police in November after being arrested for burglary, he told them Chow's family had made threats on his life.
Another witness, a woman with Tam the night he was killed, said Chow and Tam were "very good brothers". Chow is due to reappear in court on June 28.