Towie in dock over 113km/h 'joyride'

By Jimmy Ellingham -
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GPS device snitches on tow-truck owner, who says he was only testing car’s suspension after boy-racers’ jibe.

A tow-truck driver accused of taking an impounded car on a joyride at speeds of up to 113km/h was caught out by a GPS device, a court has heard.

Michael Donald Woods, owner of an Auckland tow-truck company, says he took the car for a drive - after towing it at the request of police - only to check its suspension.

But the DVD of a police interview, played in the Auckland District Court yesterday, showed he changed his story after being told he had been caught out by the GPS device.

Early on April 15, 2012, the police called Woods to pick up the impounded Nissan Silvia from Mt Wellington.

Prosecutor Leo Farmer told the court that when Woods returned to his yard, he took the car off the truck and took it for a joyride. "What Mr Woods didn't know is that [owner Erin] Ashe's car had a tracking device fitted to it. It's called a Snitch."

In the DVD of the interview, Woods said when he took the car to his yard, he saw boy-racers hanging around.

When they left, he followed them in his truck with the Silvia still loaded on the back, in an attempt to get their licence plate number for police.

But when police told him the Snitch had shown the car had hit 113km/h and 105km/h at times - unlikely in a loaded tow-truck - Woods changed his story.

He said that when he loaded the car onto his truck at Mt Wellington, the boy-racers were intimidating him and saying he had damaged the Silvia's front suspension.

He wanted to check that wasn't the case, so took it for a drive. He didn't think he was travelling so fast, however, because he was uncomfortable in the car.

"I can't understand why I've been made out [as] the criminal because of this," he said. "I'm sorry that I caused everyone trouble ... I've lost everything because of this."


Erin Ashe uncovered her car's movements when she logged on to its GPS tracking website.

The 51-year-old owns Pakuranga-based East City Towing.

He is on trial before Judge Brooke Gibson and a jury, having pleaded not guilty to one charge of unlawfully taking a motor vehicle.

Mr Farmer said Woods might argue during the trial he didn't intend to use the car dishonestly or that he thought he was allowed to drive it. But neither the police nor Ms Ashe gave such permission.

Ms Ashe said she uncovered her car's movements when she logged on to its GPS tracking website, which showed where, when and how fast it had been driven.

"I thought my car had been stolen at first, then I realised it was still at the impound yard's street address. At this point, I realised it had just been taken for a joyride."

When questioned by Woods' lawyer, Jeremy Bioletti, Ms Ashe said she had never noticed the Snitch operating inaccurately.

The trial is due to finish today.

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