War medal thief admits trail of bungled offending

Joshua Lukic says he is keen to meet the victims of his burglaries and thefts but at least one of them won’t be accepting that invitiation ahead of the 30-year-old’s sentencing.

“I don’t think I could talk to him,” said Ian Jones of Redwood, whose family medals were stolen in a break-in last December.

Items with a huge sentimental value to the family were taken and only a few of them have been recovered. Five-year Fire Service medals for him and his father have been found and returned, but his uncle’s New Zealand Memorial Cross has never been found.

The cross was issued to the family when his uncle was killed fighting at El Alamein, Egypt, in 1941. The medal is engraved on the back with the name of Private K L T Jones.

The family also lost jewellery, including a 42-year-old engagement ring and Mr Jones said today he believed the jewellery was probably overseas by now.

“The army don’t do medal replacements,” he said at the Christchurch District Court after Lukic pleaded guilty to 17 charges at the end of a court process Mr Jones has attended constantly.

A firm called Medals-R-Us could provide a replica of the Memorial Cross, but he said: “I really would like the original back.”

Lukic pleaded guilty to charges of burglary, theft, dishonestly using a bank card, interfering with a car, escaping and resisting the police, aggravated assault, and failing to answer bail. His plans to go to trial were abandoned when he pleaded guilty today.

Judge Stephen O’Driscoll remanded him in custody for sentencing on May 25. He asked for a pre-sentence report, and referred the case for a possible restorative justice meeting with the victims.

Defence counsel Donald Dickson said Lukic was keen for that meeting.

Lukic also asked the judge if a psychologist’s report could be arranged ahead of the sentencing, but Judge O’Driscoll said he would leave that decision up to the Probation Service who will prepare the pre-sentence report.

Lukic has a history of offending including burglary, receiving stolen property, and robbery. An earlier sentencing session heard that his parents had apparently given him cannabis from the age of seven, because of issues with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He later stopped using cannabis, but began to over-use alcohol. There were also gambling issues.

Lukic’s careless trail of criminal bungles was outlined in the documents the police presented to the court.

His palm print was found at the scene of a Harewood Road burglary in which $3700 worth of electronics gear including a laptop was taken.

His fingerprints were found at the scene of a house burglary in Johns Road, Belfast, in which jewellery and electrical items worth $7900 were taken.

His palm prints were found on a side window at a house in Dunbarton Street, Belfast, where the Jones family’s jewellery and medals worth $10,900 were taken.

His fingerprints were found at the scene of burglaries in Gibbon Street, Sydenham, and in Paddington Street, Northcote.

Lukic used a credit card stolen in a burglary to make purchases totalling $331 at five stores.

On June 9, he broke into a vehicle parked at Hornby Mall, searched it, and then returned to it twice more without finding anything to take.

On August 2, Lukic and an associate put hoods over their heads and kicked open the door of a property in Niagara Street, Wainoni. They searched the garage and were caught by police one minute after leaving.

In April 2016, Lukic stole an $1100 cellphone that a woman security guard at the WINZ Papanui office left on the counter. He had gone there to change his address. Cameras recorded the theft, and the registration number of the car he left in. The cellphone was recovered and returned to the victim.

In December 2016, Lukic and a woman associate had a credit card that had been taken in a burglary of a house in St James Street, Papanui. It was used repeatedly for purchases totalling $564 over the next few days. It was traced to the offenders because the woman used it to top up her cellphone, and when it was used at the Sydenham McDonalds, a car registered to Lukic’s mother was recorded in the drive-through.

When he was arrested at an address in Mairehau on December 18, Lukic ran off down the driveway and jumped over two fences before being caught – and then he punched a police constable and threw another to the ground before running off again.

He was caught again, but the police had suffered lumps and grazes from the encounter.

“In explanation, Lukic stated he was going through a rough patch,” the police told the court.

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