Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Life of crime: Petar Vitali admits near-fatal assault

Petar Vitali. Photo / File / Brett Phibbs
Petar Vitali. Photo / File / Brett Phibbs

A notorious Auckland crime figure is facing a long stretch behind bars after he admitted a near-fatal assault on a woman.

Petar Vitali, 59, was convicted on Thursday of one charge of injuring the 27-year-old with intent to cause injury in the High Court at Auckland.

The conviction will be added to his lengthy criminal history, which spans at least 32 years.

Vitali is a former Hells Angel gang member who has been to prison numerous times in the past - perhaps most famously, for shooting a member of a rival gang in 2000.

After arriving at his Te Atatu South home to find seven senior members of the Headhunters hitching his fishing boat on to his Ford Mustang, Vitali rammed one of them with his four-wheel-drive vehicle, making him drop a .45 calibre pistol.

Vitali snatched the pistol and fired five .45-calibre bullets, one of which punched through a convicted killer Graham "Choc" Te Awa's stomach.

He then went on the run for 12 days but was eventually sentenced to two years' jail for the shooting and a raft of other charges including unlawfully possessing a loaded Colt AR15 semi-automatic rifle, a Smith and Wesson .45-calibre pistol and 214 rounds of various ammunition.

Not long after his release, Vitali was making headlines again when he showed the Herald through the $3.1 million mansion owned by troubled property development Mark Lyon's. The Omana Ave house was famously gutted by fire in 2002, and raided by police for drugs and ammunition soon after.

Vitali's "tour" exposed a "sea of squalor" - designer sunglasses, stereo systems, fine art and expensive motorbikes lay among hundreds of pornographic photographs, half-drunk bottles of bourbon and layers of filth.

But most recent charges against Vitali are much more sinister, and violent, than his previous.

According to the police summary of facts the attack happened in the early hours of May 9 last year at an industrial property in Riverhead.

Vitali was living in a caravan and his victim, whose details are suppressed, in a storage container described as a freezer box.

Police said the pair had a dispute over cigarettes, and the woman ran away to "hide in fear" of Vitali.

He found her, punching her in the head and kicking her in the ribs.

"(Vitali) placed his belt around the victim's neck and dragged her across gravel back to his caravan," the summary said.

"(He) pulled the belt so tight that the victim could not breathe and thought she was going to die... then twisted the belt even tighter causing the victims jaw to break and become dislocated. The victim's teeth were forced to cut into her cheek and mouth causing her mouth to bleed profusely.

"He continued to drag the victim around with the belt around her neck. He then dragged the victim over to a chilly bin which was full of water from the rain... told the victim to put her face into the water and to wash the blood off.

"As the victim did this (Vitali) held her head under the water. The victim managed to struggle and lean on her side to enable herself to breath."

The wounded woman stayed in Vitali's caravan for several hours before she managed to get out to use a porta-loo.

A worker later found the woman hiding under a truck in the yard. Vitali took her to a nearby medical centre and she was transferred to Middlemore Hospital, where she underwent surgery to insert metal plates into her jaw to repair a severe fracture.

When Vitali was initially spoken to by police, he denied having anything to do with the woman's injuries, and claimed they were self-inflicted.

Police had also charged Vitali with rape, unlawful sexual connection, assault with a weapon and male assaults female. However, a plea bargain was reached with the crown and those charges were withdrawn in return for Vitali admitting the count of injuring with intent. He will be sentenced on September 13.


• 1981: Charged with stabbing a man at a Willie Nelson concert at Auckland's Western Springs. He later beat the charge.

• 1987: Convicted of failing to wear a safety helmet on his motorbike.

• 1988: Jailed for two years after being found guilty of possession cannabis resin for supply. The resin had been hidden in a dog kennel occupied by a german shepherd in a bid to prevent it behind discovered.

• 1996: Jailed for three years after being found guilty of supplying methamphetamine and conspiring to supply methamphetamine.

• 2001: Jailed for two years on a raft of charges including shooting a senior member of the Headhunters gang

• 2013: Convicted of injuring a woman with intent to cause grievous bodily assault

- NZ Herald

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