An alleged cocaine importer in suburbia kept his illicit life secret and was a near-perfect flatmate, murder trial jurors heard today.
Gregory Flannagan knew about Denver Chance’s healthy eating, creative writing and poetry interests.
Flannagan also knew Chance in the past had run-ins with the law and drugs, Auckland High Court was told.
But Flannagan said Chance, 43, was embarrassed about the past and showed no desire to be in the drug trade.
Chance was killed in 2019. Jay Christopher Lingman has denied murder and is on trial.
The Crown said Lingman shot Chance four times at Kingseat on Auckland’s southwest outskirts, then stuffed his body in a freezer.
The defence said Chance was a cocaine importer who visited Lingman’s property in a rage before Lingman shot him in self-defence.
On Wednesday, Flannagan said Chance was an old friend who’d been a pleasure to live with.
“He was awesome. He was just a self-contained unit.”
Flannagan said he met Chance in the early 2000s through a mutual friend.
Jurors heard Chance, when not travelling, would often stay at Flannagan’s Mairangi Bay property on Auckland’s North Shore.
He said Chance never offered him or his wife Kelly-Dee Flannagan drugs.
“He was the most placid, mellow dude. I’ve never seen him in any way violent or wound-up.”
Flannagan said Chance went on a trip abroad in about late 2018 and early 2019.
“He was going to the place Santa was supposed to come from, Finland.”
“He went to Brazil, I don’t know where else, but he travelled all over the place.”
Chance in early 2019 had been saving up for a home deposit, Flannagan said.
Flannagan said he and his wife grew worried that February after not hearing from Chance for days.
Jurors have heard Chance imported motorbike jackets and sets of the block-stacking game Giant Jenga.
Desmond Hoeflich, former part-owner of Sandringham’s Lord Kitchener pub, said Chance and Lingman were at the pub one weekend, and he introduced them.
He said that happened no earlier than 12 months before Chance disappeared.
“It seemed fine. They were chatting away,” Hoeflich added.
Hoeflich said he knew Chance travelled but he wasn’t sure where to.
He said Chance described some of the “international Tinder girls” he’d met on the dating app.
“I think he hooked up with Mrs Fiji or something like that.”
Jurors also heard from Chance’s friend Alexander Bullough.
“He was very consistent. There was never anything different about his behaviour,” Bullough said.
Chance was health-focused and spent a lot of time in the gym, his friend said.
Bullough said he’d known Chance for about 18 years and they travelled together to Medellin in Colombia and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Chance was already in Colombia when Bullough arrived. Jurors heard the men spent the holiday going to the gym and drinking.
Bullough said Chance never discussed his early 2000s arrests for growing cannabis in Whangārei and buying pseudoephedrine-based medications in Christchurch.
Bullough believed Chance and Lingman met a year to 18 months before Chance’s disappearance and chatted briefly about travel.
Shortly before Chance vanished, he and Bullough attended a Jordan Peterson speaking event at the Logan Campbell Centre in Epsom.
Bullough said Chance was relaxed and jovial after the event, and asked of his plans, replied with words to the effect of: “I’ve got someone to catch up with tomorrow.”
“It was such a nothing comment, but it only stood out for me once he vanished.”
The court was read a statement from Chance’s mother Paula McGregor, provided to police in 2019.
She said her son was passionate about fitness and nutrition.
“He has always been very driven … He has never wanted to do a 9-to-5 job.”
Chance’s friend John Foreman said the 2002 Christchurch medicine charges seemed to be a turning point.
“After that, he decided he didn’t want anything more to do with that life.”
Foreman said Chance was big-hearted, wanted to be free, and voiced revulsion for the drug trade.
“His passion was making money and living life.”
Foreman said he once owed his friend $15,000 but Chance never lost his cool about it.
“He was my best mate.”
Foreman said he once asked his friend for drugs in 2018, and it turned out Chance had a gram of something resembling cocaine in his car ashtray.
Defence counsel Ron Mansfield queried how if Chance had turned his life around, he had a gram of cocaine with him.
“I thought it was Christmas, mate, until I got home and tried it.” Foreman replied. “It was crap.”
The trial before Justice Melanie Harland and the jury continues.
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