Charge alleging theft of missing man’s laptop dismissed

A charge alleging theft of a laptop from a man who has now been missing for nearly three years has been dismissed after the police decided they did not have enough evidence.

Dion Louvain Lawrence was originally charged with burglary of the home of Richard Hinkley, 49, days after reporting him missing on February 10, 2016.

Hinkley was last seen on December 12, 2015, at KiwiBank in Edgeware.

Lawrence’s flat is beside the one where Hinkley lived at a Housing New Zealand complex. Lawrence told Stuff in January that the police had searched his home shortly before Christmas 2017.

He said police took him to the police station and told him they believed he had murdered his neighbour. He said the police had also dug up his garden.

He told Stuff that he had no idea what had happened to Hinkley and he had “got on” with him.

The burglary charge was withdrawn on May 22 this year, and replaced with a charge alleging theft of the laptop, worth between $500 and $1000 according to the charge.

Lawrence denied the charge and a judge-alone trial was set for the Christchurch District Court today, but police did not want the hearing to go ahead.

Defence counsel Donald Matthews said the police wanted to withdraw the charge – which would allow it to be laid again – but he asked the charge to dismiss it.

The police prosecutor explained to Judge Stephen O’Driscoll that the complainant had been missing since the incident was alleged to have occurred, and there had been a “substantial investigation” to find him, but he had not been located.

The police had believed there was circumstantial evidence to prove the theft case, but there wasn’t.

The police wanted the judge to allow the charge to be withdrawn because it meant that if Hinkley was to “resurface” there would be a strong case to answer. However, without his presence and evidence as a witness there was insufficient evidence to pursue the charge.

But Judge O’Driscoll indicated the matter had gone too far for a withdrawal.

He told the prosecutor: “We are at a judge-alone trial now. I’ll ask you to proceed and if you can’t offer any evidence, I’ll dismiss the charge.”

The police then indicated they could not go ahead with the trial.

The judge said: “I don’t think it’s fair to have the possibility of a charge hanging over his head and not able to proceed. Because you are offering no evidence, the charge is dismissed.”

Police said in January that they were investigating the possibilities of foul play or self harm being involved in Hinkley’s disappearance, but were keeping an open mind about what had happened to him.