Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

French hitchhiker admits stealing $1k sleeping bag

The French hitchhiker arrested after a West Coast meltdown has now admitted stealing a $1000 sleeping bag from an Auckland Kathmandu store - but still disputes damaging a road sign so badly that it needs to be replaced.

Cedric Claude Rene Rault-Verpre was met at Christchurch District Court this morning by a throng of media.

The 27-year-old smiled wryly as he entered the courthouse.

Soon after, he was spoken to by police.

Rault-Verpre, who pleaded guilty at Greymouth District Court on Tuesday to wilfully damaging road signs, has now also been charged with shoplifting a sleeping bag, worth $1000, from Kathmandu's Broadway, Newmarket store on September 9.

He appeared from custody at Christchurch District Court this afternoon where he admitted stealing the sleeping bag.

But duty lawyer Andrew McKenzie said while Rault-Verpre admitted throwing one stone at a road sign at Punakaiki, he disputed the amount of damage he's was alleged to have caused, and the price-tag of $3000 to replace it.

He also disputed some of the witness statements made against him, McKenzie said.
McKenzie said the issue would need to be debated over a 2-3 hour disputed facts hearing in Christchurch, and not in Greymouth where he had faced "considerable hostilities".

Police opposed bail today, with police prosecutor Bronwen Blackmore voicing concerns that Rault-Verpre was in New Zealand on a one-year working holiday visa and had been "moving through New Zealand and causing significant damage".

McKenzie said locking him up until his next court appearance would not be justified, given the level of his offending.

He said he'd turned up for court, the police had his passport, was otherwise of good character, and was in a position to report to a police station while on bail.

When the police raised doubts over whether he'd been working, Rault-Verpre, who had been leaning casually in the dock, twice clicked his fingers to get the attention of his lawyer.

He told McKenzie that he had been working, and suggested that if police looked at his tax records, they would see that.

McKenzie said he would try to find accommodation in Christchurch now that he knew he had to be here until his next court appearance.

Judge Brian Callaghan said it could not be suggested that the Frenchman had been on a crime spree.

He agreed with the lawyer that a remand in custody would be over the top.

He remanded Rault-Verpre on bail for a case review hearing at October 4 at 10am, on the conditions that his passport be surrendered, and that he must report to Christchurch central police station on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

- NZ Herald

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