Killer steals identity

By Roger Moroney, Anna Ferrick

Robert Eric Jeffery was in full-time care at a home in Hawke's Bay when a convicted killer was arrested using a passport in his name on the Sunshine Coast in Australia three months ago.

British-born Simon Hennessey was 14 years old in 1978 when he murdered his 72-year-old aunt in a frenzied attack at her home in Plymouth.

Twenty years later, in 1998, he escaped from Gloucestershire Prison and made his way to New Zealand, where it is believed he had links to the Hastings area and had somehow come across Robert's details.

Hastings man Robert Jeffery has never had a passport and has been in permanent care since a 2005 car accident left him with a serious head injury.

Three months ago Don Jeffery, Robert's father, received a call from the Department of Internal Affairs to say someone had been taken into custody on the Sunshine Coast with a passport in Robert's name.

Mr Jeffery was told they couldn't tell him the name of the person arrested or even what he had done wrong as it would be a breach of his privacy.

He then received a call from the police who told him they were investigating where the fraudster would have got Robert's details from.

"I had heard of this happening but it's shocking when it happens to someone so close," he told Hawke's Bay Today yesterday from his home in Hastings.

He said he did not recognise Hennessey's's photo or his name and had "no idea" where he could have got Roberts details from.

"We don't know whether it was a chance encounter or whether he targeted Rob."

He said the family were also unsure how long Hennessey has been using Robert's identity for but said they have not been put out by the ordeal.

"He seems to have been using Rob's identity to evade the law, not to rip Rob off.

"That was obviously our main concern, making sure Rob is protected."

Robert suffered life-threatening injuries after he was thrown from the flat-bed truck he was driving during a head-on collision eight years ago.

Don said his son, now 44, struggled to retain information and did not know anything about the situation.

"We're not sure if this guy got his details before the car accident or afterwards when they knew what had happened."

The police had been in contact with him but details had been scarce as the investigation was still underway.

Mr Jeffery said they were not able to tell him whether or not Hennessey lived in Hawke's Bay or what time periods he may have been here for.

Police confirmed yesterday they had have seized electronic items from a house in Hastings they say had been linked to Hennessey.

They had become aware of a person who had entered the country on a false UK passport and who had then fraudulently obtained a New Zealand passport - under the name of Robert Eric Jeffery.

After Hennessey escaped from prison in 1998, it is understood he used the name Neil Docking to enter New Zealand.

Last night, Internal Affairs Minister and Napier MP, Chris Tremain, said his department was investigating how Hennessey obtained the passport and he would comment further once he

UK escapee took identityhad been fully briefed.

UK media said Hennessey had used several false names to commit elaborate frauds while roaming New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and Malaysia.

Since his escape police in the UK had been searching for him throughout the country and Spain, and it was not until April that he turned up, by chance, in the small Queensland town of Tewantin as part of an investigation into credit card scams.

Police there suspected the name he gave them was false and did some research - and discovered it matched the name of an innocent New Zealand man - Robert Eric Jeffery.

It was then they began making further enquiries.

Hawke's Bay CIB Detective Senior Sergeant Dave de Lange confirmed police here became aware of the situation in April after a referral through Police National Headquarters from Australia, and the UK.

"We have been investigating his activities."

However, Mr de Lange said due to the nature of the enquiries, and with the investigation still continuing, he was unable to give any details. He was not able to say if Hennessey had been living with a partner while in Hastings, or exactly where in Hastings he had been living.

It was not known at this stage how often Hennessey had stayed in the Bay through the years.

He is also understood to have lived in several locations across Queensland as well as in Hastings, and is believed to set up several fraudulent businesses in Southwest Queensland.

He now faces jail in Queensland or extradition to the UK.

This is not the first time attempts have been made to obtain New Zealand passports by fraudulent means. In 2004, Uriel Kelman and Eli Cara - two Israeli citizens suspected of being Mossad agents - were caught trying to fraudulently acquire a New Zealand passport using the identity of a cerebral palsy sufferer.

Do you know anything about this case or did you ever meet Hennessey? Email

- Hawkes Bay Today

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