'Ghost robbers' accused face court

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The masked men were caught on PaperPlus' security cameras as they terrified staff with their weapons. Photo / Supplied
The masked men were caught on PaperPlus' security cameras as they terrified staff with their weapons. Photo / Supplied

Two men dubbed the "Casper the ghost robbers" are defending charges they were involved in armed hold-ups at Te Puke and Katikati in 2009.

Harley Adlam, 22, and Desmond Galvin-Taikato, 18, whose trials began in Tauranga District Court on Monday, have denied involvement in the armed robberies of Te Puke Jewellers and the Katikati PaperPlus and Post Shop on July 24, 2009.

A tray of rings was taken in the first robbery, and the store owner was assaulted before the robbers escaped in a stolen black Nissan Skyline, also used in the second robbery.

Crown prosecutor Catherine Harold told the jury they would hear evidence from 33 witnesses, including the owner of two stolen cars, the store owners who were robbed, witnesses and several police officers.

Ms Harold said the first robbery occurred at 11.15am after four men wearing balaclavas climbed out of the Nissan, taken from Mount College carpark that morning, and went into the Te Puke Jewellery store. They took a tray of rings from the window and assaulted the owner as they left.

As they drove off, the Nissan hit two vehicles and the front bumper was badly damaged. The car was later found dumped in Pyes Pa Rd with some items belonging to its owner, including his driver licence.

Police allege Galvin-Taikato's fingerprints were on the licence.

About 2pm the same day, three men wearing hoodies and white masks - one armed with a sawn-off shotgun - held up the Katikati Post Shop.

A fourth offender stayed in the vehicle.

The Skyline was driven off towards Waihi. Next day two white masks were found in Trigg Rd North, Waihi.

The firearm used in the robberies was later found in the same area.

Ms Harold said that before each robbery the offenders filled their vehicle with petrol.

The paid at a Greerton service station, but later drove off without paying from a Paengaroa gas station, and were filmed by a surveillance camera.

. She said a police officer would testify Galvin-Taikato was one of the four men in the group.

Between July 17 and July 24, 2009, a white Nissan Legume was also stolen from South Auckland. It was found in Mark Rd, Te Puke, with some items belonging to the owner of the stolen Skyline in it.

Ms Harold said a detective would give evidence that when he searched a Rotorua address on August 5, 2009, he found Adlam hiding behind a sofa.

When asked whether he had a cellphone in the house, the accused allegedly yelled out to a female associate to flush it down the toilet.

Text messaging and polling data analysed by police from the retrieved cellphone connected Adlam to two other accused and showed he was involved and knew police were after him, Ms Harold said.

Adlam's lawyer, Tony Balme, said the key issue in the trial was identification, and the Crown had to prove his client was involved.

Mr Balme said the Crown's case was built on the "slenderest of foundations".

Galvin-Taikato's lawyer, John Bergseng, also told the jury the key focus of the trial was identification.

Mr Bergseng urged the jury to keep an open mind and consider carefully every piece of evidence including the timing of alleged events.

The trial, which is scheduled to take five days, continues today.


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