Kirsty Wynn

Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Fury as jail botch-up brings compo bid

Derek Mihaere, victim of Ricardo Sannd. Photo / Doug Sherring
Derek Mihaere, victim of Ricardo Sannd. Photo / Doug Sherring

The man convicted of New Zealand's biggest art heist claims he is in line for up to $100,000 taxpayer compensation, after authorities botched their calculations and kept him behind bars an extra six months.

Anthony Ricardo Sannd, 61, spent 198 more days in prison than his sentence required, after a judge failed to take into account time Sannd had spent in remand.

The compensation claim, lodged with the Government, has angered Sannd's victims and their families.

The claim relates to a sentence for the 1992 armed robbery of an ANZ bank in Kerikeri, and a subsequent "Mexican standoff" with armed police. Sannd gave an interview to the Herald on Sunday after his release from prison this month, and said the compensation would "right an injustice" and help him with life on the outside.

"I'd like recognition of the error and a payment," said Sannd, who has now taken his late wife's surname, Romanov. "Six months is a long time to spend in prison when you shouldn't be there and the money would give me a fresh start at life."

Sannd has served jail time for four gunpoint robberies, including taking an $8 million Tissot masterpiece from Auckland Art Gallery in 1998. But in the interview, he admitted his involvement in 13 previous armed robberies in Australia - robberies for which he was never arrested or charged.

Then, in 1984, Sannd was one of two men convicted of New Zealand's biggest robbery at the time - $294,529 taken from an Armourguard van at the Foodtown supermarket in Birkenhead, while the three security guards were pushed to the ground at gunpoint. One guard suffered a gash to the back of the head when he was smacked with a gun.

Another of the three victims, 67-year-old Derek Mihaere, said Sannd had done his time - but now he should drop the compensation claim and move on. "Basically, if you do the crime, you do your time - they could have killed someone," Mihaere said. "I've moved on and he should move on."

Mihaere and his workmates, Barry Atchison and Gordon Murton, were ferrying canisters of $10 bills to the armoured van when Sannd and his accomplice Charles Thomas Willoughby struck.

Murton was bashed in the back of the head with a rifle butt as he struggled to get out of the back of the van.

"Gordon was frightened to open the door to them but he opened it and they still hit him," Mihaere remembers. Gordon Murton died in 1995 and Barry Atchison died two years ago.

His widow Lyndsay Atchison said her husband would be horrified to hear of any compensation claim.

"He's the one that didn't sleep for months so he would not be happy at all," she said. "Where is the compensations for victims? There is none."

But Peter Williams, QC, a prominent criminal lawyer and prison reform advocate, said Sannd should receive more than he would probably get.

"He was a [motorbike] racer in his day, and he had accidents which I think affected him.

"He would not have had a trade and he would not have been taught anything in prison. ... At times he would have been locked down for 23 hours a day and punishment dished out with no recourse.

"If it was my choice, I would give him half a million in instalments."

Last week, Sannd alleged former friend Tony Johnstone was his accomplice in the Tissot heist. Johnstone later died in a motorbike crash.

Johnstone's former employer, Richard Bowman of Bowline Boats in Pukekohe, thought it unlikely: "He didn't come across as that type of person."

QC, campaigner Williams has cancer

Distinguished criminal lawyer Peter Williams is battling cancer, but he is continuing to work and insists he is still a force to be reckoned with.

Williams, a Queen's Counsel, rose to fame for his work defending Terry Clark, a Mr Asia associate, and went on to represent more than 100 people charged with murder.

As chairman of the Howard League for Penal Reform, he has been a leading voice in campaigning for prisoners' rights. He was, in part, motivated by 10 days he spent in prison as a university student, after being convicted of riding a motorbike under the influence of alcohol.

Williams, 77, said yesterday that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003, and then secondary cancers last year. "I've had my ups and downs with it as anyone who has been told they have cancer goes through," he said.

"I've had five weeks of radiation [but] I feel I'm going to beat this.

"It takes all the strength out of you, but I am on the mend. I am still a voice to be heard."

Williams is in Fiji defending former politician Mere Samisoni, 74.

- Herald on Sunday

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