9 Oct 2018

Brother says missing sibling a changed man after jail

5:48 pm on 9 October 2018

The brother of Bret Hall, who disappeared in 2011, says Mr Hall was a changed man when he was released from jail after being imprisoned for drug dealing.

Michael Hall was giving evidence at the trial of David Lyttle in the High Court in Palmerston North.

Mr Lyttle is accused of killing Bret Hall after they argued over money.

Michael Hall said he had a good relationship with his brother, but had only twice visited his brother's remote property at Pitangi up the Whanganui River Road.

He said on one of those occasions he saw his brother snorting meth and asked him what he was doing.

He said Bret Hall told him he now only used it on odd occasions and it was not as bad as it had been before he had gone to prison around 2005.

"At that stage he was consuming a lot of methamphetamine and was mostly stoned all the time. Most times he was OK, but some days he was a bit 'short'.

"When he was up at Pitangi he was a totally different person. Beforehand he used to mumble a lot but up at Pitangi he seemed bright and alert and just living life."

Michael Hall said his brother did not have any firearms at the property because he was still on parole and was not allowed to be around firearms.

He said Bret was concerned some money had gone missing and that someone was watching him; things had also gone missing from around the campsite.

"He'd bought a trail cam to put on the track and take pictures to show him who was coming up and down the track, to get an idea of who's supposed to be there and who's not, if his stuff is getting pinched and taken down the track."

David Lyttle in the Palmerston North High Court.

David Lyttle in the Palmerston North High Court. Photo: RNZ / Anne Marie May

Michael Hall said his brother was unhappy about progress being made on a house he was having built by the accused, David Lyttle, because it was taking a long time and he was getting phone calls from suppliers because materials weren't being paid for.

He said he understood before his brother went to prison he had loaned David Lyttle $20,000 to set up a plastering business and had also later given him more money to buy supplies for the house build.

"The $20,000 just disappeared. Lyttle didn't pay any of the bills. Bret's only conversation with me about that was he was telling me Mr Lyttle had better face up with the money or there'd be consequences.

"He didn't say what that would be, but basically he was going to give him a dong - give him a bit of a hiding I suppose."

Michael Hall said after his brother disappeared, he talked with the accused, David Lyttle, about a few things he noticed at the campsite which were out of character for his brother.

That included several chairs being left out by the campfire.

"The first time I went up Bret got two chairs out, then when we left everything was put away again but [mum and I] noticed four chairs out when we got up there so I said to Dave, who came up with you, because there were four chairs out.

"He said no, there was only two. I said when mum and I [arrived] there were four chairs out and he got shitty and didn't say anything else."

Michael Hall also told the Court about two occasions when his brother had been stood over for drugs.

"He had been at home and he said about three people smashed their way into his house, held a rifle to his head and asked him for drugs and money.

"Another one where a guy had a bit of a beef - he used to sell meth and he'd sacked the two girls selling for him and found out Bret was using them to sell meth.

"He confronted Bret about it and he fired a shot at Bret. I don't know if it was a rifle or pistol, but Bret told me about that because he showed me where the bullet ended up in the wall."

After his brother disappeared, Michael Hall said he asked David Lyttle whether he had repaid the money he owed Bret Hall.

Michael Hall said Mr Lyttle said he could not produce any records about that and had no proof he had repaid it all.

He said said he rang David Lyttle several times to try and sort out where the money was, but only got vague answers and after that Mr Lyttle would not answer his calls.