BRENDON Cook - the man behind the wheel of a car used in a terrifying abduction at Hamilton that ultimately ended in one of the kidnappers being stabbed to death - has pleaded guilty to his role, but denies entering the unit where the stabbing occurred.
Cook, 25, of Cooks Hill, first pursued Killian Reynolds in his own car, before switching vehicles during the brazen bashing and abduction in Donald Street, Hamilton about 3.30am on March 8, 2019.
He then drove Mr Reynolds, 51-year-old Valentino Taufaao and a man who detectives allege was Timothy Onslow back to a unit in Coady Street, Hamilton South, where Mr Reynolds was detained and mercilessly bashed and Mr Taufaao was ultimately stabbed to death. Cook was represented by solicitor Drew Hamilton when he appeared in Newcastle Local Court via audio visual link from jail on Wednesday.
He pleaded guilty to a charge of take and detain in company with intent to get advantage and occasion actual bodily harm, which carries a maximum of 25 years in jail and the DPP withdrew two other charges.
Mr Hamilton said there was a narrow factual dispute that would need to be settled and it is understood Cook denies being in the unit at the time Mr Taufaao was stabbed to death.
Cook will appear in Newcastle District Court on July 30 to get a sentence date.
Meanwhile, Mr Onslow, 26, of Hamilton South, has pleaded not guilty to charges of take or detain in company with intent to gain advantage and occasion actual bodily harm and reckless grievous bodily harm in company.
He will face a trial in Newcastle District Court in May, 2021.
A third man, Daniel Mercer, who lives at the unit in Coady Street, was charged by detectives in May, some 14 months after the abduction and stabbing.
He is accused of using a machete to threaten a naked and bleeding Mr Reynolds inside the unit.
After making comments to police at the scene about "defending himself" during the abduction, Mr Reynolds was initially charged with manslaughter over the death of Mr Taufaao.
The belief was that he had stabbed Mr Taufaao in a frenzied attempt to flee his captors and the unit.
Prosecutors dropped the manslaughter charge against Mr Reynolds in January this year and then two months later Mr Reynolds gave an induced statement to detectives, during which he denied stabbing Mr Taufaao.
Mr Reynolds - who as part of the statement was given immunity from prosecution for any incriminating answers he gave - said he had been badly beaten, stripped naked and was sitting in a chair in the unit while some of his kidnappers tried to work out how to transfer money out of his bank account.
Mr Reynolds said he was trying to summon the strength to pick up a knife on the ground when someone bashed him over the head and he "saw red".
It was around that time that he says he heard Mr Taufaao, who he said was "six or seven metres" away from him, fall to the ground.