Film-maker rows with cops over threats

By Nicholas Jones

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A film-maker who made inflammatory comments about a dead soldier has slammed the Defence Force and police for the response to subsequent threats against her.


But last night, both organisations disputed Barbara Sumner Burstyn's version of events and expressed disappointment over her attack.


In a blog post yesterday, Sumner Burstyn said she feared for her family's safety after her comments about Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker set off a torrent of online abuse. The furore had begun to calm after Sumner Burstyn, who has no association with the Herald, apologised and a Facebook page targeting her was deleted.


But in the blog post she said she was ignored when she contacted police and the Defence Force to report the threats. "Who do you turn to when you are under threat?," Sumner Burstyn, who is in Canada, wrote.


"[The police's] wider vision is 'Safer Communities Together'. I like the sound of that ... if only it were true."


She said she eventually contacted Canadian police and Interpol about threats allegedly made by NZ Defence Force staff against her New Zealand family.


Sumner Burstyn said an operator at the NZDF laughed at her when she called to report the threats, which allegedly included rape and murder.

However, last night both the Defence Force and police denied Sumner Burstyn's account of events.


Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said police twice dispatched staff to check an address provided by Sumner Burstyn. Attempts were made to phone the house, and checks revealed nothing untoward.


Local police were notified and neighbours alerted so police could be quickly notified of suspicious activity.


Mr Burgess said Sumner Burstyn was advised to contact Canadian police because she had full and immediate access to the relevant information. That information was forwarded via Interpol and was being assessed by detectives, he said.


"Ms Sumner Burstyn has acknowledged that she made a major gaffe through her Facebook comments.


"It is disappointing that she now sees fit to comment adversely and inaccurately on the organisation which responded properly to her concerns," he said.


A Defence Force spokeswoman said the allegations about threats made by staff would be assessed.


"Appropriate action will be taken if they are found to be true. The Defence Force does not condone cyber-bullying," she said.


She said a woman, who did not give her name, did call headquarters on Friday to report Facebook threats. The operator advised her to call the police.


"Our people are grieving, as are the families of the three killed who are yet to bury their loved ones," the spokeswoman said.


"Given the funeral of Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker is [today], out of respect for the family, we have no further comment."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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