Ashleigh Dargusch and Jared Wilford.
Ashleigh Dargusch and Jared Wilford. NZ Herald

Man denies pushing girlfriend off cliff

THE boyfriend of an Australian woman who fell 7m to her death has denied her grieving family's allegations that he is responsible for killing her.

Ashleigh Dargusch, 23, died in Waikato Hospital a week after suffering fatal injuries at the pole house waterhole in Kauaeranga Valley Rd on the Coromandel Peninsula on December 27 last year.

At a tense inquest in Hamilton yesterday, the Dargusch family told Coroner Gordon Matenga they believed their daughter's boyfriend, Jared Wilford, pushed her to her death, and that the four men who took her to the waterhole had "blood on their hands".

Ms Dargusch's parents, Gary and Colleen, and Mr Wilford and his family and friends sat on opposite sides of the room during proceedings.

Mrs Dargusch sobbed quietly throughout the three-hour inquest - at one point saying "but why did you take her there?"

Her daughter had been in the country a few days and was holidaying in Thames with Mr Wilford when they met up with his local friends, John White, Brenden Prayoncorn and Matthew Hopkirk.

After a few drinks the group decided to go swimming and Mr White drove them to the waterhole.

When asked by the coroner if he had anything to do with her death, Mr Wilford denied involvement.

"I didn't push her, I didn't touch her, I didn't do anything to harm her. I had no reason to."

Mr Wilford said he'd had about seven or eight beers.

Dargusch family spokesman Rick Greinke asked Mr Wilford why he didn't grab Ms Dargusch after stating she was within reach.

"I couldn't move quick enough. I wasn't expecting her to fall."

Senior Constable Carl Redaelli said police were not informed until January 3.

He said St John Ambulance was called immediately after the incident along with the local fire brigade to help retrieve Ms Dargusch from the rocks, about 6 to 7m below.

He was questioned on that by Mr Greinke, who said that meant there was no forensic examination of the scene or post-mortem examination on her body.

Mr Greinke asked what the procedures were in New Zealand for a 111 call.

Mr Redaelli said as the incident was reported as an accident with an injury, St John would be first respondents.

"Ashleigh Dargusch's left foot has slipped off the track about 2m or 3m past where the others have jumped," Mr Redaelli said. "As she has slipped she has grabbed at trees and bushes and has screamed. She has fallen backwards, rotating so that her head was down and her feet above her head."

She landed, head-first, on the rocks below, he said.

Mr Greinke also questioned Mr Redaelli on a sentence in his report that said while there was "motive" to support Ms Dargusch being pushed, there was no evidence.

But Mr Redaelli said he stood by his comments in his report.

Mr Greinke told the inquest the family believed Mr Wilford had financial and anger issues and that he was the person standing next to Ms Dargusch when she fell to her death.

After their daughter's death, her parents learned from private Facebook messages between the pair that their relationship was effectively over but that they had decided to go ahead with the trip anyway.

Mr Greinke said alarm bells should have been ringing as they had all been drinking that day. He also asked why it took so long for police to interview witnesses, more than six months in one case. However, Mr Matenga said issues such as that were for him to determine.

Mr Greinke said Ms Dargusch's death had been extremely traumatic for her family to deal with.

"These boys one way or another have blood on their hands ... the family believe it has not been a full and thorough investigation of the circumstances of this incident and needs to be revisited."

The coroner has reserved his decision.

- NZ Herald


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