Couple admits receiving tour group’s belongings

A couple have admitted receiving the contents of a Chinese tourist group’s trailer – towed away in a brazen daylight theft while the visitors dined at a Christchurch restaurant.

The Christchurch District Court was told that the stolen luggage included $22,000 of camera gear, but everything had been recovered.

Hare William Ngawati, 31, was jailed for two years seven months by Judge Michael Crosbie on charges of receiving the luggage, thefts of power tools from building sites, thefts from cars, receiving a television taken in a burglary, possession of methamphetamine and a firearm, and driving while impaired.

Judge Crosbie ordered him to pay $2833 reparations for the current offending, but that is on top of $26,000 in reparations he already owes from earlier offences. He has already received 14 jail sentences.

Ngawati’s partner, Cristal Rose Devereux, a mother, was put on supervision for nine months with an order to take treatment and counselling as directed. She was appearing only on the receiving charge, and defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger said she had only a limited history of offending.

The trailer was unhitched from a minivan parked in Leslie Street, Upper Riccarton, on the evening of November 10, and driven away while the tour group had a meal at a restaurant. It contained luggage from 16 Chinese tourists who had only arrived in Christchurch Airport hours before. All but one of the group, most from the same family, had never been to New Zealand.

The theft was captured on security camera. An appeal on social media located the trailer abandoned in Ilam soon after, but the thieves had taken 10 or the 19 items of luggage.

Devereux, 24, originally denied a charge of stealing the trailer and contents, worth a total of $45,907, but just before she was due to go on trial this week, she pleaded guilty to a charge of receiving stolen property instead.

Miss Bulger said Devereux’s involvement had been “limited” and no reparation was sought. The property had been recovered undamaged.

Defence counsel for Ngawati, Alister James, said his client had described himself during his pre-sentence interview as being “destined for failure”. He was affected by anxiety and depression, and a methamphetamine addiction was behind his offending. As a young person, he had been sent to live with his alcoholic mother and had assumed some responsibility for his younger brother and sister.

He had been making good use of his time with NCEA studies in prison, and he had been working in the prison kitchen.

Judge Crosbie said Ngawati was assessed as a high risk of reoffending but urged him to make changes now, while he had a partner and children who were depending on him, rather than later in life. He urged him to do a course at the Drug Treatment Unit while in prison.

His offending showed all the hallmarks of targeted thefts, burglaries, and receiving, involving high value items.

Jailing him, the judge told Ngawati: “You have affected a lot of people with thefts of their goods, their livelihoods. Enough’s enough.”