Dunedin harassment case: Complainant's photos found on laptop, court told

By Rob Kidd

The court heard how what began as a parking dispute allegedly progressed into something more serious. Photo / 123RF
The court heard how what began as a parking dispute allegedly progressed into something more serious. Photo / 123RF

A Dunedin business owner allegedly harassed for two-and-a-half years by a government employee says hearing that his personal photos were found on the man's computer was "disturbing".

The 39-year-old defendant, who has name suppression, is accused of threatening to cause the man grievous bodily harm, intentional damage and criminal harassment.

His trial before the Dunedin District Court began yesterday, with the complainant speaking of his growing fear during the ordeal.

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"It was a living hell to be honest," he said.

The businessman's identity, along with that of his sister, are also suppressed.

In opening the case, Crown prosecutor Mitchell McClenaghan outlined a detailed timeline which he said portrayed the ongoing malicious attacks on the complainant.

The court heard how what began as a parking dispute, when the defendant was ticketed after he blocked a rear entrance with his car, allegedly progressed into something more serious.

The complainant received various threatening text messages and others featuring disparaging comments about his genitalia following the original incident in June 2012.

Nine months later, he started receiving calls and texts from unknown men propositioning him for sex.

After speaking to one of them, the man discovered that his contact details had been left at a meeting place in a Dunedin suburb.

The extended nature of the abuse saw the complainant buy a "trap phone", which he used to text the defendant in a bid to prove he was behind the long-running campaign.

In cross-examination by defence counsel Anne Stevens this morning, she suggested those were not the actions of someone who was scared, as the man had suggested.

"Put yourself in my shoes," he replied.

"You close the curtains, you lock your house. I lived in extreme fear."

When police executed a search warrant at the defendant's home in February 2015, they seized a laptop on which were found photos of the complainant and his family.

"I'm not sure why [he] would have photos of me on his computer," the man said. "I do find that to be disturbing, to be honest."

He accepted the pictures had been most likely posted on Facebook and, as such, were publicly accessible by others.

Also giving evidence today was former Dunedin city councillor and broadcaster Neil Collins, who said he received a letter in 2014, weeks after a public event he had officiated.

He said the document "contained highly derogatory personal information".

"I was disgusted," Mr Collins said.

The Crown said there was electronic evidence that the defendant had written the letter, which contained lewd comments about the complainant's sister - a theme throughout the period of alleged harassment.

The court heard yesterday the complainant had received sex toys at work, twice had his business attacked with home-made paint grenades, and his neighbours were contacted falsely stating he was being investigated for child sex offences.

The final alleged act of harassment came on April 18 in 2015 when he received an Otago Daily Times newspaper clipping.

It was a picture of himself but it had been defaced with multiple images of penises, along with the words "ha ha ha".

The Crown said the same image was found on the defendant's phone and was similarly vandalised.

The trial, before Judge Paul Kellar, continues.

- Otago Daily Times

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