Witnesses stonewalling homicide inquiry

By Jared Savage

Witnesses to the killing of an Auckland man are stonewalling the inquiry, possibly because they fear retribution from an underworld kingpin.

Damien Loder Allen, 33, died nearly two months ago of head injuries in the house he lived in with three others in the suburb of Hillsborough.

Police say there is evidence the house was cleaned and Mr Allen's body moved before 111 was called nearly 24 hours after he is believed to have been fatally injured.

Fewer than 10 people were at the house on the night Mr Allen died and police say there are "obvious gaps in honest information" in what those people are telling police.

The house is owned by drug dealer Albert John Rhodes, who was the first person in New Zealand to be sentenced to life imprisonment for manufacturing and supplying methamphetamine.

His brother Richard also lived at the house and the pair were jailed this year as part of large-scale drug-ring busted by police in Operation Colossus.

The nine-week trial was plagued with fear, reducing the jury to just 10 members.

One juror was discharged by Justice Helen Winkelmann after fearing for the safety of her family.

A second juror was discharged after a note was pushed under her door saying: "Hey u look beautiful when you're necked in your home turn me on c-u soon. ps tell anyone u die."

Albert Rhodes was found guilty on 32 drugs charges and unsuccessfully appealed his convictions this year.

The Herald has learned that the drug lord's son and daughter, Jah and Abby Rhodes, lived at the Hillsborough address with Damien Allen. Both were at home the night he died.

It is believed Mr Allen was killed by blunt-force trauma to the head during a drunken altercation on the night of September 24.

He was found by police on his bed at 8pm the next day.

Court records show Jah Rhodes has recently been convicted of possession of cannabis and driving while disqualified. The 21-year-old has been sentenced to one month in prison, a $250 fine and disqualified from driving for one year.

He was also convicted and discharged for possession of instruments for the manufacture of methamphetamine.

The cannabis was discovered during an interview with police over the death of Mr Allen.

Jah Rhodes took his hat off and a cannabis bud fell on the table. He quickly ate the plant material, to dispose of the evidence, but failed to notice several others had fallen on the ground, according to court sources.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard, head of Operation Ebb, said the homicide investigation was ongoing.

"A number of people interviewed have been economical with the truth, and whether that is because of the reputation of the Rhodes family, or they are just covering up for the assailant, we are not sure," he said.

A review of the investigation will determine what further action police will take.

Herald inquiries have also found the Crown seeks to seize two properties owned by Albert Rhodes under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

One is a 16ha lifestyle block on Great Barrier Island worth $510,000. The other is a $315,000 house in Northland.

Albert Rhodes was deported from Australia in 2004 after being convicted of running a $20 million cannabis and methamphetamine drug ring.

Anyone with information about Mr Allen's death should contact the Auckland City police on 302-6400 and ask to be put through to Operation Ebb, or phone Crimestoppers confidentially on 0800-555-111 and refer to Operation Ebb or Damien Allen.

- NZ Herald

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