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Shots fired in hold-up on Mt Eden, court hears

By Rob Kidd

Detective Inspector Scott Beard talks with media on top of Mt Eden at the scene where tourists were held up at gunpoint. File photo / Greg Bowker
Detective Inspector Scott Beard talks with media on top of Mt Eden at the scene where tourists were held up at gunpoint. File photo / Greg Bowker

A gun-toting criminal went on an hour-long crime spree in Auckland targeting Asian sightseers, a court has been told.

John Koteka, 35, is before the High Court at Auckland facing 12 charges, most of which stemmed from incidents on February 17 when the Crown alleges he caused havoc driving a bright blue Holden around tourist hotspots in central Auckland.

The first flashpoint happened by the Winter Gardens at the Auckland Domain where he allegedly approached a tour bus operator, brandishing a firearm and demanding cash.

A struggle ensued and the victim broke away.

He later identified Koteka through a photo montage, which Crown prosecutor Warren Cathcart said was highly significant.

He said the issue of whether the crimes took place would not be disputed but the identification of the perpetrator would be the key decision for the jury.

It is alleged Koteka's offending progressed when less than an hour later he drove up Mt Eden, stopping by an Asian tourist who was walking towards the summit.

Mr Cathcart said the man's evidence would be that he handed over cash, a cell phone and his hotel key card while a gun was pointed in his face.

The Crown alleged that rather than making his escape, Koteka continued his ascent to the top of Mt Eden where he grabbed a bag from a Korean man who was there with his wife and 7-year-old daughter.

Despite the presence of the firearm, members of the tour party advanced towards the offender in a bid to reclaim the stolen property.

But they were temporarily deterred when he fired five shots into the ground and made for his vehicle.

As he fled, two men clutched at the steering and wheel and were dragged for a short distance before losing their grip.

One suffered a broken finger but no one else was injured.

Mr Cathcart told the jury the car had been found burned out in Onehunga the following day, a kilometre from where Koteka lived.

He also recounted two of Koteka's previous convictions for aggravated robbery, which he said showed a pattern of offending.

The two armed hold-ups took place in March 2010 and involved Asian families robbed in their homes.

Koteka's lawyer Peter Kaye said the offender's identity would be strongly contested.

Of the "positive identifications" relied on by the Crown, he said one was "wrong completely" and a couple were indefinite.

There was an unusually stilted start to the trial in front of Justice Mary Peters, which is expected to last two weeks, when a juror excused himself with a possible case of the measles.

He left the court to be examined by doctors and despite possibly contracting the illness, the other 11 jurors chose to go on regardless.

- APNZ

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