Rena Joyce murder trial: CCTV captured murder accused buying rubbish bag, bleach and dumping items in bins before handing herself in

A woman who allegedly murdered her partner and hid his body in his own compost heap for two weeks was caught on camera making multiple trips to the supermarket to purchase rubbish bags, bleach and other cleaning supplies.

And CCTV at a city bus exchange captured Rena Joyce disposing of property in public rubbish bins just before she handed herself in to the police.

Joyce, 56,is accused of murdering Martin Orme Berry, 55 at his Main North Rd home on or around December 29 2020.

She has admitted stabbing him in the neck and cutting his throat, then dragging his body outside and burying him in a compost heap under rotting food, leaves and vegetation.

His body was found two weeks later after Joyce went to the police and disclosed the killing.

She maintains his death was an accident after a “heated argument” where she “snapped”and is defending the murder charge at a High Court trial.

Today the trial jury were shown CCTV from January 12 last year – the day Joyce walked into the Christchurch Central Police Station and said she wanted to “confess” that she had “manslaughtered” her partner.

Detective Scott Taylor told the court that Joyce travelled to the central city by bus from New Brighton where she had been staying.

CCTV of the Christchurch central bus exchange shows Joyce getting off the bus carrying a number of bags.

She was then filmed depositing items into various bins.

Taylor said one bag was discarded entirely in the women’s toilets.

Joyce then walked about 200m to the Christchurch Justice & Emergency Services Precinct – which houses the District and High Courts and central police station – and spent 30 minutes talking to a Ministry of Justice staff member at the bail counter.

Taylor said from there she went to the adjacent police station and told an officer at the front counter that she had “manslaughtered” Berry and buried him in the back yard.

This afternoon the jury were also shown images, footage and receipts relating to Joyce’s supermarket purchases after the alleged murder.

She is accused of cleaning up the scene after murdering Berry and getting rid of almost all of his personal possessions.

Detective Constable Michael Hawke was tasked with gathering the footage and receipts after Joyce was charged.

He told the court that her groceries – on a number of trips to a Pak’n Save supermarket near Berry’s home – were multiple purchases of “Big Black Sack” rubbish bags and other rubbish bags, bleach, soap and plasters.

She also purchased rubber gloves, heavy-duty bleach, scourers, matches, rubbish bags, disinfectant, multipurpose cleaner, soap, energy drinks and casks or bottles of white wine.

A man who lived close to Berry’s home told the court he encountered Joyce on New Year’s Eve.

He said she was wearing a black glove and putting things in a rubbish bin on the street.

She asked him what day it was and whether bottle stores were open.

He thought it was odd but did not consider the exchange significant until he heard a body had been found nearby.

A direct neighbour of the troubled couple then told the jury what she experienced in the lead up to Berry’s death.

Kathleen Rushton, who lives at the Community Home for the Sisters of Nazareth, said when Joyce moved in Berry took her to meet the nuns.

He was excited and told them he planned to marry Joyce.

But Rushton said they argued “continually” and she could hear both Berry and Joyce screaming and yelling at each other.

Berry rushed over one day and asked her to help Joyce who was in a state.

Rushton ended up calling 111 as she felt Joyce, who was “quite distressed” and “threw herself on the ground” needed urgent medical care.

Another time she heard a commotion and went over to find Joyce bleeding from a cut and Berry sitting looking “sheepish” next to a glass Rushton assumed had been used as a weapon.

She called 111 that day too.

She told the court that she believed Joyce, after a stint in prison for assaulting Berry, had been doing well and had been sober for “a year” before the killing.

Rushton said she never witnessed any assault but often found it hard to work at her home due to their shouting and arguing.

When Joyce was in prison Rushton spoke to Berry and told him it was “unwise” to have her back in the house after her release.

She said he spoke about possibly selling the house and moving up north.

But she thought he “was just lonely” and did not want to let the relationship go.

Rushton’s evidence was that Joyce got out of prison she “noticed a change” in her.

Joyce was “proud” of her sobriety, helped by taking the drug Antabuse which blocks the processing of alcohol in the body.

They even had a celebration with baking when Joyce claimed she had been sober for a year.

Yesterday the jury heard from members of Berry’s family about his life and relationship with Joyce.

His brother and sister both said Berry had told them repeatedly that he was scared of Joyce, that she was violent and abusive and that he wanted to leave her but did not know how.

They acknowledged his struggle with drinking and that he had assaulted Joyce once – but believed it was a case of him defending himself during a violent attack by his partner.

Berry’s nephew Joseph told the court that he lived with him for a couple of years when he first moved to Christchurch.

He said Berry drank heavily but was always”cool, calm and collected” and loved to chat and be around people

He smoked cannabis most days but not a huge amount and he cut back when he started seeing Joyce “maybe to impress her”.

Joseph Berry said his uncle was “a lovely guy” and when Joyce moved into his house “they seemed happy at the start”.

“She was quite a drinker, she loved to drink as well… I think they were perfect together in that aspect,” he told the court.

When Berry was arrested for assaulting Joyce he was released on bail to his nephew’s house.

“He turned up unannounced with a black eye and scratches … Rena caused them,” Joseph Berry said.

“It was a big WWIII sort of fight and he was assaulted (first) … he was upset, big time, as you would be.

“I was scared … Martin wouldn’t hurt a fly, he had no bad bone in his body, he was just a bit of a drunk.

“He was scared to leave her – he didn’t know how to, it would have been just a f**kin pickle to be in.”

The trial, before Justice Jonathan Eaton, continues.

FAMILY VIOLENCE – DO YOU NEED HELP?

If you’re in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don’t stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day – 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Women’s Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 – 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• It’s Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz


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