Three jailed over home invasion to collect debt

Three men who worked for a security firm - including the man who bashed Nan Withers and left her for dead in 1997 - have received long jail terms for stand-over tactics including threats and armed robbery.

They were told that their home invasion to collect on a debt must have terrified the two residents who were held against their will, had $4000 property taken, and were told they could be shotgunned and dumped in the Waimakariri River.

The heaviest jail term of seven years was reserved for Harry Goulding Houkamau, who was jailed for 10 years in 1997 for his armed robbery of a shop, when he bashed pensioner Nan Withers with a jack handle.

She had a fractured skull and needed 75 stitches in her face and head. The attack prompted a citizen-initiated referendum calling for harsher sentences for violent offenders.

Houkamau, 36, Shane Michael Ford Wakefield, 23, and Charles Bruce Wharekawa, 29, had all pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and armed robbery for the sentencing by Christchurch District Court Judge John Cadenhead today.

Wakefield and Wharekawa were given five-year terms.

Crown prosecutor Anne MacGoughan said the three had gone to the house to recover money owed by one of the occupants to Wakefield, for repairs after a motor accident. Some irregular payments had already been collected.

Judge Cadenhead said: "I take a serious view of this offending. People should realise they can't go into other people's homes and intimidate them in the way you have done. One would like to think that in New Zealand this type of conduct doesn't occur."

The two residents had recovered from the shock of the offending, but they must have found the incident extremely traumatic.

Defence counsel Steve Hembrow said Houkamau, 36, who is deaf, was ashamed of his criminal history - he has 43 previous convictions - including the bashing of Mrs Withers.

He had written apologies to the victims in this case. He had been in employment for three years and now had a partner for the first time in his life.

"He is very concerned that he may lose his family - the first family he has ever had - as a result of this offending."

Wakefield had no significant criminal history, said his counsel Craig Ruane. The offending had occurred "when things spiralled out of control".

A reasonable amount of the property taken during the incident had now been recovered.

For Wharekawa, who has 39 previous convictions, defence counsel David Bunce said the victims had not been hurt.

His client now had a partner and had been taking his parenting responsibilities seriously.

"See you later, love," a woman in the public seats called out, as Wharekawa was taken to the cells to begin his prison term.

- NZPA


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