A dispute over a $2000 debt preceded a car chase that resulted in a collision that claimed the life of a father-of-seven more than two years ago, a court has heard.
Darren Butler and Andrew Russell are facing trial in Wollongong District Court amid allegations the pair were responsible for causing the crash that killed Daniel Merrett in Albion Park Rail on May 18, 2019.
The men are defending allegations of manslaughter with Butler facing charges of dangerous driving occasioning death and two counts of dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm with Russell pleading not guilty to firing a firearm in a public place.
The 12-person jury was empanelled on Wednesday with Crown prosecutor Glen Porter and defence counsel outlining the key details and disputed facts of the case.
In his opening address, Mr Porter said in the early hours of May 18, 2019, Mr Merrett, also known as Daniel Clulow, died when the black Ford Territory he was a passenger in slammed into the back of a fuel tanker on the Princes Highway, causing him to be ejected from the vehicle and die instantly.
It will be alleged Butler was driving and Russell a passenger in a silver Toyota Corolla that was chasing the Territory at high speed following a dispute earlier in the night over a $2000 debt.
At the centre of the case is whether Butler and Russell's actions amounted to "intimidation or stalking" that caused Mr Merrett's sister to drive theTerritory in such a way that ultimately collided with the truck.
They jury heard Mr Merrett was celebrating his upcoming birthday at a family member's North Wollongong home on May 17.
After midnight, Mr Merrett's sister drove her brother, a friend Thomas Johnson and another family member to Cringila service station, opposite the pub.
They were met by Butler, Russell and Holly Green, who arrived in silver Toyota Corolla, and the group are allegedly seen interacting on CCTV.
The Crown will allege Butler demanded $2000 from Mr Johnson, however he was not able to pay and that ultimately sparked the car chase.
It will be alleged Mr Merrett told the group he saw a "gun in the car" and that Butler and Russell wanted Johnson to "go with them" as they wanted the money.
About 20 minutes after arriving, the Territory left the service station and was immediately followed by the Corolla, Mr Porter alleged.
He told the jury they would see CCTV footage of the cars, including how close together they were and how fast they were going through streets and on the highway towards Albion Park Rail.
After stopping for a short time, the Crown alleged the passengers in the car "heard loud bangs".
The jury are expected to hear that passengers in the car allegedly saw a firearm and heard noises they thought were gunshots.
Mr Porter went on to allege Mr Merrett made a Triple 0 call while in the car, telling the operator they were being chased by someone who had a firearm, before saying "they are shooting at us now".
Mr Porter also alleged yelling, screaming and crying could by heard before Mr Merrett implored his sister to "go go go".
Once the call was ended, the operator called back and Mr Merrett allegedly identified Butler as the person following them.
Soon after the Territory collided with the fuel tanker that had left the intersection.
Mr Porter told the jury he anticipated the truck driver say he had "no chance" at avoiding the collision due to the speed the Territory was travelling.
Mr Porter alleged Butler did not stop the car and instead continued driving on the Princes Highway before briefly outlining what Butler and Russell allegedly did in the hours after the crash.
Russell's defence barrister Winston Terracini SC, claimed Russell did not have a gun nor did he fire it.
He went on to label the claims made during the Triple Zero calls about bullet holes as "rubbish" and suggested no cartridge case or gunshot residue were collected.
"There is no evidence from any independent source he (Russell) had a gun of any kind," Mr Terracini said.
Mr Terracini also cautioned the jury to be "careful" about believing the evidence of the prosecution witnesses.
Butler's barrister Bernadette O'Reilly told the jury the main issue in the case was whether her client was criminally responsible for the death of Mr Merrett, adding other people could have been at fault.
"This isn't about gut feeling, it isn't about intuition, it's about evidence," she said.
The trial, which is expected to last five weeks, resumes on Thursday.
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