Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Road rage attacker had history of violent behaviour

odt, newstin

A man who yesterday pleaded guilty to manslaughter after a road rage attack three months ago is said to have a history of picking on those more vulnerable.

Bio O'Brien, 28, a student from the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu, yesterday pleaded guilty in Auckland District Court to the manslaughter of Jasmatbhai Patel, 78.

Mr Patel, a van driver, was attacked by O'Brien after what police called a "minor crash" with his BMW on April 7 in Carrington Road, Mt Albert, outside Unitec, where O'Brien studied.

Mr Patel was admitted to Auckland Hospital but died the following day.

O'Brien admitted the manslaughter charge after he and his lawyer worked through all the documents in the crown case.

A woman who knew O'Brien well through the Tuvaluan community told the Unitec student magazine In Unison, she was not surprised when she first heard of the assault.

The 21-year-old, who goes by the name Latoya, said: "I knew that was coming, I had a feeling. He's got a real temper on him."

Latoya has known O'Brien for about 10 years. She says "he's the type of guy that is really creepy.

"He comes across as really cocky ... He used to get drunk and start trouble wherever, and whenever. He's not a nice guy."

She said in the Tuvaluan youth community all the girls knew him as a "wannabe player", and so avoided him.

Due to an experience she had with O'Brien when she was younger, Latoya believed he was "the type of guy to beat up women".

He was a "cocky, forceful guy only to people he knows are vulnerable and weak".

O'Brien was studying first year engineering at Unitec at the time of the attack.

However, since the guilty plea, a Unitec spokesperson told In Unison that he had been un-enrolled.

"Bio O'Brien is no longer enrolled as a Unitec student due to his inability to attend classes.

"In general, students who are unable to attend classes will be withdrawn from their programme when the institute is made aware of changes to their personal circumstances that prevent them from attending."

O'Brien was remanded in custody until sentencing in the High Court at Auckland on September 29.

Today, a post on news website by a person claiming to be a relative of Bio O'Brien apologised to the Patel family.

"I fully understand the hurt and anger Mr Patel's family is feeling and will always feel towards Mr O'Brien," the writer said.

"I know that at this moment, no words expressed by us, the family or anyone else would relieve the anguish and despite what has been said about Mr O'Brien's family's lack of sympathy, we did and always will.

"We are humans after all, and empathetic enough to understand their sadness."

The writer said that since the attack, the O'Brien family had been legally advised to not contact the Patel family, which they had wanted to do.

They said O'Brien had always intended to plead guilty to manslaughter, they said.

"He says he wants to remember his guilt always for his role in the death of another human being, however small it may be."

The case dragged on because he refused to admit to the prosecution's summary of facts that stated he had "punched the old man with closed fists" in accordance to eyewitness reports.

Both the defence and Crown's pathologists' reports stated that there were no marks on his face, head, neck, or body that could be attributed to a blow or blows, the writer said.

"So we the family questioned the prosecution's facts and demanded an inclusion of the pathologist's evidence to suit the scientific facts. It was then changed to `strike', not punched."

Killer's mother-in-law defends his character


The man who this week admitted killing another man in an Auckland road rage incident has been portrayed unfairly, according to his mother-in-law.

Bio O'Brien, 28, a student from the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu, pleaded guilty in Auckland District Court on Tuesday to the manslaughter of Jasmatbhai Patel, 78.

Patel, who was driving a van, was attacked by O'Brien after what police called a "minor crash" with his BMW on April 7 in Mt Albert.

Patel was admitted to Auckland Hospital but died the following day, and his family say there has been no apology and appeared to be no remorse from O'Brien since the "vicious" attack.

O'Brien's mother-in-law, Saria Tufala, disagreed and said there was remorse - something which was reflected in the guilty plea.

But she said she disputed some of the prosecution's summary about O'Brien repeatedly punching Patel.

"They were both denying responsibility over who caused the accident but Bio knew that his car was damaged and it was a BMW so he wanted Mr Patel to have a look at it, but he refused to," she said.

Tufala said O'Brien had responded by grabbing Patel by the shirt and pushing him.

She refused to talk about O'Brien's history or character, but admitted it would be good for him to "learn lessons" in jail.

She believed O'Brien had been portrayed in an unfair light, and had not "violently, brutally or physically assaulted Mr Patel".

"If he was so brutal, why are there no records like that of him in the islands or here?"

When asked about how her daughter was coping, she said thoughts went to the Patel family, as they would be feeling worse.

"Justice has been served for Mr Patel," she said.

A woman who knew O'Brien well through the Tuvaluan community told the Unitec student magazine In Unison, she was not surprised when she first heard of the assault.

The 21-year-old, who goes by the name Latoya, said: "I knew that was coming, I had a feeling.

He's got a real temper on him."

Latoya has known O'Brien for about 10 years. She says "he's the type of guy that is really creepy.

"He comes across as really cocky ... He used to get drunk and start trouble wherever, and whenever. He's not a nice guy."

She said in the Tuvaluan youth community all the girls knew him as a "wannabe player", and so avoided him.

O'Brien was studying first year engineering at Unitec at the time of the attack.

However, since the guilty plea, a Unitec spokesperson told In Unison that he had been un-enrolled.

"Bio O'Brien is no longer enrolled as a Unitec student due to his inability to attend classes.

O'Brien was remanded in custody until sentencing in the High Court at Auckland on September 29

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Police find stolen car linked to robberies

Police have found the stolen car believed to be connected to armed robberies in the Bay of Plenty, but are still looking for the trio of robbers who were disguised with Casper the Ghost masks.

Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner said they found the black Nissan Skyline coup taken from Mount Maunganui College on Friday morning, at about 3pm yesterday in bush on Trig Road North at Waihi, about 5kms from Waihi.

It was found in a semi-remote area by members of the public and police were keen to talk to anyone who may have been in the area between 1pm and 3pm yesterday.

The car was now undergoing a forensic examination.

It was difficult to identify the robbers because of their disguises, Mr Turner said.

Police did know they were three males of medium build and one was Caucasian.

" (They had) been disguised with a Casper the Ghost type white polystyrene mask - a roundish white plastic or polystyrene full face mask, something a kid would wear at Halloween."

They also wore hooded sweatshirts and dark coloured trousers, Mr Turner said.

A Te Puke jewellery store was robbed about 11.30am on Friday, followed by the Kati Kati Paper Plus store at 2.25pm, when three disguised offenders with a sawn-off shotgun stole a small amount of cash.

Mr Turner said it is still too early to link them the robberies to a recent spate of robberies in Waikato.

Anyone who had seen people in a Nissan Skyline acting suspiciously, or the abandoned Skyline in the Waihi area should contact Tauranga police on (07) 577 4300 or 0800 SPEAKUP.


Suspicious fire at Hastings school


Police are investigating a suspicious fire that was lit at Hastings Boys' High School early today.

Senior Sergeant Greg Bradshaw of Hastings police said there were two other fires lit in the area overnight, which were believed to be related.

"At roughly 12.30 this morning the caretaker at the boy's high school was woken by fire alarms on the property.

"He went and found the tuck shop was ablaze and made sterling efforts to fight the fire himself and he pretty well kept it under control until the fire service got there."

Mr Bradshaw said there was "moderate damage" done to the canteen and the blaze was being treated as suspicious.

He said no one was hurt, as no one was in the tuck-shop at the time "apart from the bad guys".

Hastings Fire Station Officer Mike Manning said three appliances attended the fire about 1am.


Derailed train due back on tracks


A derailed Kiwirail locomotive is expected to be put back on its tracks today.

The Wairarapa-bound train derailed north of Wellington on Thursday night.

It was knocked off the tracks by a slip as it came out of a tunnel at Maymorn, near Upper Hutt at about 6.15pm on Thursday.

It was carrying 300 passengers.

Kiwirail staff had hoped to put the locomotive back on the tracks last night, but were delayed because it was too dark and the ground was too soft, spokesperson Nigel Parry said.

Solid foundations were being constructed so two cranes – a 60-tonne rail crane and 200-tonne road crane – could lift the 85-tonne locomotive back on to the track this afternoon.

A track about 50 metres long had to be formed so the cranes could get close to the site.

"They're hoping that once the locomotive is free of the site there will be minimal track repair needed before they will be able to reopen the line," Kiwirail spokeswoman Ruth Larsen said.

The locomotive will be taken to Lower Hutt to be checked once it is freed.

When the incident happened, passengers were transferred to the train's rear three carriages and towed back to Upper Hutt before being transferred to buses.

Kiwirail aimed to have train services between Wellington and Wairarapa running again before Monday morning.


Teen killed by police car named


The teenager who was killed by uniformed police driving a patrol car, as he and a friend were walking along a rural Bay of Islands road last night, has been named.

He was Rawire Wilson, 16, of Kaeo.

The accident happened on State Highway 1 at Ohaeawai, 11km north east of Kaikohe, shortly after 11.30pm, Inspector Murray Hodson from Northland police said.

The officers were on routine patrol and were travelling from Kaikohe to Moerewa.

The crash site was an open rural road with no lighting in the area, Mr Hodson said.

Rawire Wilson died at the scene.

He was walking with another 16-year-old male who was moderately injured and flown to Whangarei Hospital.

Both teenagers were from Kaeo, 47km north west of Moerewa.

Three investigations – a Coronial, criminal and Independent Police Conduct Authority – have been launched in relation to the accident, Mr Hodson said.

Next-of-kin of the dead teenager had been notified and Victim Support was being provided to all families involved, he said.

Police were appealing for any witnesses who were in the area at the time of the crash to contact Detective Sergeant Sam Bindon of the Kaikohe Police.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fire destroys Hamilton building


A fire has "totalled" a commercial building in the Hamilton suburb of Frankton.

Fire Service spokesman Steve Smith said about eight fire trucks were at the fire, which started about 9.40pm in the two-storey building on Wickham Street.

Hamilton Senior Station Officer Daryl Trim said the fire "pretty much totalled" the building, which housed waste disposal company Allens United Waikato Ltd.

No one was trapped or injured in the blaze.

The fire was still being investigated, and it was not known if it was suspicious, Mr Trim said.

He believed there were vehicles in the building, as well as flammable equipment which had to be cooled so it would not explode.

Hamilton firefighters also attended a house fire this morning. No one was injured but it was being investigated to see if it was suspicious.


Fatal family fight



Police are waiting for the results of a post-mortem on a man who died following a domestic incident in south Auckland overnight to determine if a crime was committed.

Police and ambulance staff found the 44-year-old man dead when they arrived at a Mangere house just before midnight.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Lynch, of Counties Manukau CIB, said it appeared the man died during, or shortly after, a fight with a male family member. However it was not known if the fight was the cause of death.

"He was definitely fighting, but we don't know how he died, and if the fighting contributed towards his death. For instance, he might have had a heart attack or some other aliment during the course of the fight," Mr Lynch said.

"We don't actually know if a crime has been committed. Everything depends on the results of the post-mortem to determine how the person died."

Police were not looking for anyone else in relation to the incident, and the family was co-operating with police, Mr Lynch said.

A post-mortem was expected to be carried out later this afternoon.


Arrest over ramming


Police have arrested a 51-year-old Rotoma man after an elderly couple's vehicle was shot at yesterday.

The elderly couple were driving along State Highway 33 to Rotorua on their way to a weekend market about 4.30am when a man driving a red ute appeared from a side road near Rotoma, 35km northeast of Rotorua, and allegedly tried to ram their late model Toyota Hilux ute, police said.

The driver chased the couple, trying to force them off the road and twice shooting at them with a shotgun at close range.

The pair were unhurt, but their ute was damaged, Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Loper said.

Later that morning, a man allegedly tailgated a woman in Hamurana, 15km north of Rotorua, overtook her at a blind corner and forced her to stop.

He then approached her with an axe.

"When challenged by the female, the male apologised and left the scene," Mr Loper said.

A man will appear in Rotorua District Court tomorrow on firearms, driving, cannabis and explosives charges.


Missing epileptic boy, 14, found


11:04AM Saturday Jul 18, 2009

The missing 14-year-old Auckland epileptic boy has been found safe and well.

Hilton Kaleti went missing from his Mangere home yesterday. Senior Sergeant John Yearbury said he arrived home safely at 10am today.

He suspected the boy had been staying with friends.

He was last seen on the corner of Yates Rd and Wickman Way in Mangere about 1pm yesterday His family was worried as Hilton suffers from epilepsy and was overdue to take his medication.


Weather causes powercuts and road closures


Houses are without power and roads have been closed due to wild weather in the North Island.

Heavy rain and winds started last night, and are expected to continue until later this afternoon.

Northpower, who supply power to the Northland area, reported widespread cuts, from Riverside (near the Whangarei city centre) to Twin Bridge (28km south of Kaikohe).

Whangarei police said they have had some calls for trees that have fallen.

The Desert Road on State Highway 1 is now open after closing around 8am today because of snow.

Gisborne police said the Waikohu River has caused surface flooding on Matawai Road, near Te Karaka, northwest of Gisborne but as there were no houses in the area to be affected they would keep the road open.

The Met Office said heavy rain in the eastern Bay of Plenty and Gisborne was expected to continue until late this afternoon.

Streams and rivers in the high country could rise quickly and there could be slips as between 80mm and 120mm was forecast for the hills and high country.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Factory ciggies better than rollies - study


A new study has shown that factory-rolled cigarettes maybe the lesser of two evils.

The Christchurch-based study compared people smoking factory-rolled cigarettes to those smoking roll-your-owns and found that smokers tended to suck rollies more intensively, more often and more efficiently, making them at least as deadly as factory-rolled cigarettes.

The study, led by public health specialist Dr Murray Laugesen , is the first to use people rather than smoking machines to compare the two types of cigarettes.

It compared 26 men who smoked rollies with 22 who smoked factory-rolled. Each smoked a filtered cigarette every half hour over two hours, according to usual habit.

Cravings and exhaled carbon monoxide were measured before and after each cigarette smoked.

It found that participants smoking rollies took 25 percent more puffs per cigarette and generally puffed for six seconds longer per cigarette.

Both types of cigarette boosted the level of carbon monoxide, measured in exhaled breath, by the same amount.

The study found that while the amount of tobacco used in rollies was less, the pattern of smoking - particularly for cigarettes later in the day - resulted in increased inhalation of tobacco smoke.

"Roll-your-own smokers inhale more to get the most value from their cigarettes and don't let so much be wasted, while smokers of factory-made cigarettes let a lot of their smoke drift into the air," Dr Laugesen said.

Dr Laugesen said the research dispelled the belief some smokers had in thinking rollies were safer because they used less tobacco, or had less additives, or because they used a filter.

"Instead, we find that using less tobacco actually means more smoke inhaled. Roll-your-owns contain more additives than factory-made cigarettes, not less, and using less tobacco in the roll-your-own cigarette means more smoke is inhaled, not less."

Dr Laugesen believed New Zealand's tobacco excise tax approach, levied by tobacco content rather than per cigarette, encouraged smokers to hand-roll thin cigarettes and pay less tax, making them the cheaper option.

"The tax rate per smoke should be equalised. Equal harm deserves equal tax."

Westport vendors look forward to freedom


Stuff, The Age

The Westport couple who sold a queen size bed, with a house thrown in, are looking forward to their new freedom.

Wayne Saggers and Kathy Wahrlich sold their bed with a six-bedroom historical Westport house in an online auction for $302,600.

The package, which had a reserve of $1, was listed on TradeMe in the beds category.

The auction closed at 6.46pm last night, which Mr Saggers and partner Kathy watched at their home with friends.

Mr Saggers said he managed to stay "pretty relaxed" as the bids crept up.

The action attracted hundreds of comments, which Ms Wahrlich spent all yesterday trying to answer

Known as the Stone House, the old two bathroom, three toilet guest home has a QV of $300,000.

The couple were happy with the final bid, won by an Aucklander named Mike, who Mr Saggers was waiting to hear from.

The couple had owned the house for three and a half year, and had been running it as a bed and breakfast, mainly housing West Coast miners.

Mr Saggers said they are excited about the freedom of being mortgage, rates and bills free.

The takeover could be relatively quick, "we will leave everything we'll take our clothes and toothbrushes, "he said.

"We want to buy a bus and cruise the country, we want to do all the whitebaiting season on the West Coast, it will be very lucrative. You can make a whole year's income." However, he said they were very apprehensive about selling the property the way they did.

"It was the hardest decision putting a $300,000 house on for one dollar, if we had a $2 bid we would have to had sold it."

Before this they had tried to sell though a real estate agency for $370,000 but every offer that came in fell through, because no one had any money, Mr Saggers said.

"We actually had it on Trademe in the property category for six months, we only got 800 hits in six months, and 50,000 in ten days (under the beds listing)."

He credits media attention for the sale.

"We've had people calling up from Singapore, Edinburgh and all the papers in Australia, right through New Zealand, if you did that kind of advertising, what would it cost you?"

While they are looking forward to their new lives, Mr Saggers said they will miss the house.

"We put a lot into it, we got here and it was a mess, street kids had been living in it, we changed a lot in the house, it has been completely redecorated."

The Auckland buyer told the Herald on Sunday he bought the house with a lifestyle change in mind.

He was yet to see the house in person.


Community rallies to fix tornado damage


A Northland community rallied to limit and repair damage to Kaitaia Hospital and houses when a tornado ripped through the town yesterday afternoon.

The tornado opened roofs, broke windows and brought trees crashing to the ground, damaging about 20 houses, the local hospital, a car and destroying a kindergarten fence in its path.

Homes in Pukepoto Rd and Worth St at the south end of the town appeared worst affected, while Kaitaia Hospital also suffered serious damage with a tree taking out a transformer, damage to the roof of the administration block and a boiler roof blown off.

Local volunteer fire brigade chief Colin Kitchen said residents saw the tornado approaching the south end of the town from the west coast at about 12.40pm.

With a front about 50 metres wide, it entered Pukepoto Rd before going into Worth St, through the grounds of Kaitaia Hospital and on to Eden Terrace. He said it was mainly state houses that were damaged, which have tile roofs.

"About 20 houses have lost tiles, windows were blown in and there were trees down." However, Mr Kitchen praised the Kaitaia community for its efforts with controlling the damage.

"It was great, I can't emphasis how much everyone just rallied around, the Fire Service, police, council staff, Victim Support, contractors who donated salvage, we are a resistant community."

He said the weather was still "a bit hectic" last night, and the fire brigade was called back to one of the damaged houses as water started pouring in, and the hospital fire alarm went off which Mr Kitchen suspected was caused by water getting into the system. Housing NZ spokesperson Nick Maling said contractors and emergency services temporarily fixed the damage yesterday by putting tarpaulins on roofs and boarding up windows.

He said most people opted to stay in their homes last night, despite the damage, with one family going to stay with relatives after their front windows were blown in.

Mr Maling said Housing NZ would begin fixing damaged houses tomorrow, but didn't know how long it would take as the full extent of the damage was still not known.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Woman dead after Flatbush crash

New 8:34AM Saturday Jul 04, 2009
Alcohol is thought to have been a factor in a crash that killed a woman in south Auckland last night.
Senior Sergeant Spencer Matthews said the 24-year-old died after she lost control of her car at about 10.30pm while driving along Ormiston Road in the suburb of Flatbush.
She crashed into a stream and while she was pulled from the water she later died.
The woman was the sole occupant of the car.
Police were waiting for results of a post mortem but Mr Matthews said alcohol was most likely a factor in the crash.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Man in court over shooting

Home » News » National
Thu, 31 Jul 2008
News: National | Court

A 59-year-old man has been remanded in custody after appearing in Whangarei District Court today charged with wounding with intent to injure and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Maungaturoto builder Alan Joseph Place is accused of shooting a man in the leg last night after a domestic dispute in the town, 64km south of Whangarei.

Police said the armed offenders squad was called to a house in the town at 9.30pm after a man was shot in the lower leg.

He was taken to Whangarei Hospital and had surgery on his leg. He was in a stable condition.

Place is to reappear in Whangarei District Court on August 5.

drivers taking up cyclists' space

Nelson Mail
Last updated 13:07 28/10/2008

More needs to be done to educate motorists to keep Nelson cyclists safe on roads, Bicycle Nelson Bays spokeswoman Anne FitzSimon says.

Mrs FitzSimon says there should be a national campaign on bike safety because Nelson City Council campaigns are not enough.

She believed a third of motorists were drifting into bicycle lanes and advanced stop boxes - the green area cyclists wait in at traffic lights - which was a safety problem.

Motorists know not to drift into other lanes, so the same care should be taken not to drift into bike lanes or advanced stop boxes, she said.

Mrs FitzSimon wants to see police target motorists to educate them on keeping cyclists safe.

"They need to realise we are human beings."

She cites parts of Waimea Rd and all the curves on Rocks Rd as the main problem areas where vehicles cut into cycle lanes.

"Every time they drive in them, unless they are parking, it's illegal. We are just coming from an education and safety point of view."

She said there are three E's to overcome the problem; engineering roads to be safe for cyclists, educating motorists on cycle safety, and enforcing cycle safety laws by the police.

Nelson City Council transport coordinator Margaret Parfitt agreed there was a need for a nation-wide campaign.

The council had held numerous cycle safety campaigns in Nelson, using billboards and pamphlets, which she encouraged people to put on the windows of cars parked in cycle lanes, but its budget limited it from doing more, she said.

The council plans to introduce more of the advanced stop boxes, including on Collingwood St, which is currently being upgraded.

Bicycle cops leap at opportunity

Nelson Mail, Stuff
Cycling coach Marianne Draijer has been putting police through their paces, teaching them how to dodge cones, do repairs, and something Senior Constable Garry Dunn likes to call "speed and tactical dismounting" or, in Mrs Draijer's words, how to fall off a bike.

They have had two practice sessions so far, which police must pass in order to use new bikes that were introduced in August.

Police currently have one bike in Nelson which is equipped with flashing lights, a loud siren, first aid kits and ticket books, and plan to eventually add another three for Stoke and Nelson.

"It's twofold --we will use them to enforce cyclists' behaviour and for covert and overt urban control," Mr Dunn said.

Yesterday police completed their bicycle training at Saxton Field.

During an earlier training session, while practising how to "tactfully dismount a bike at speed" around the Nelson courthouse, Mr Dunn "played the bad guy" while Senior Constable Hamish Blanch learned how to jump off a bike and tackle the role of pursuer.

After dismounting and chasing Mr Dunn around the grounds, Mr Blanch "got a bit carried away with the enjoyment of it", and tackled him to the ground, Mr Dunn joked.

New uniforms, essential to complete the bobbies on bikes look, are awaiting approval. So far, it's cycle shorts with police polo shirts and the police logo on the helmets. Mr Dunn said the look was important because "the policeman's authority comes from the uniform he wears".

However, the bike officers would also be "an approachable face for the public", he said.

The new bikes had already been used to catch a bike thief and school truants who would not have been caught if the police were in a patrol car, Mr Dunn said.

The bikes give officers a better view of what was going on on the streets, such as pedestrian behaviour, he said.

Eighteen officers signed up for the training, with seven completing it so far.