Jail for man who abducted teen

By Sandra Conchie

Ex-gang member Craig Howard, the Waikato father and grandfather who abducted Papamoa teenager Julie Davis and went on the run with her, has been jailed for more than two years.
Howard, 42, who just days before his trial last month pleaded guilty to the charge of abducting a young person aged 12-16, appeared before Judge Louis Bidois in Tauranga District Court yesterday for sentence.
The former Mongrel Mob member, with an extensive conviction history and a father of seven children and a grandfather to six, went on the run with Ms Davis in July last year when she was 14.
He had befriended her a few months earlier while her family were holidaying at Waingaro Hot Springs, where he worked at the time.
Ms Davis, a Mount Maunganui College student who lived with her mother, stepfather and brother, went missing after school on July 5.
She met up with Howard after phoning him. The pair journeyed around Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Auckland and Gisborne and Tauranga, sleeping and eating in his car.
Howard managed to evade police despite a nationwide hunt to find the two fugitives.
The matter finally came to a head on the night of July 15 when the pair were found bathing naked in a pool at Whakarewarewa after a member of the public tipped off police.

Hundreds of mobile phone calls had been exchanged between the pair over three months before Ms Davis disappeared. Howard had made 693 calls to the teenager between April 1 and July 5 and in turn she rang him 963 times.
Crown prosecutor Larry Meredith said  Howard had been assessed as being at high risk of re-offending.
A sentence of imprisonment was warranted because of the significant impact on Ms Davis and her family, notwithstanding the teenager's view that she did not want Howard to go to jail.
Mr Meredith said in her victim impact statement, Julie's mother described the period as "the worst 12 days of my life".
She was not able to sleep or eat, felt constantly under the public spotlight and feared being judged as a poor mother.
Mr Meredith said there were ongoing concerns from the teen's mother as her daughter, now aged 16, was no longer going to school.
Howard's claim to the pre-sentence report writer that he had been "providing therapy" to Ms Davis showed how deluded he was, Mr Meredith said.
Howard's lawyer Craig Tuck said Howard "acknowledged to a point" how the teenager's mother must have felt.
Mr Tuck said Howard had viewed himself in the role of "carer, helper and confidant" to the teenager during a stressful and difficult situation.

 Howard accepted imprisonment was likely but asked for home detention to be considered.

 In a statement to the court, Ms Davis
 maintained that Howard was just trying to help her and being a supportive friend.
Judge Bidois said Howard had built an "unhealthy" relationship with Ms Davis.

 "But it is accepted by the Crown that that you did not engage in any sexual activity with her which is an important factor in sentencing."
Judge Bidois said he had no doubt Ms Davis had come to trust Howard and relied on his support. But Howard should have shown far greater judgment and responsibility and not taken her away from her home.

Judge Bidois sentenced Howard to two years three months imprisonment.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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