Far North candidate quits over bogus war claims

By Stephen Cook

By STEPHEN COOK

A contender for the Far North mayoralty has pulled out of the race after false claims about serving in Vietnam.

Kaitaia man Des Mahoney, who is battling leukaemia, withdrew his nomination this week, citing "family reasons".

His withdrawal came less than 24 hours before the release of documents showing Mr Mahoney had made false claims on at least three occasions about serving in Vietnam.

The deception was uncovered by Vietnam veteran Ross Miller, who yesterday produced a raft of documents exposing Mr Mahoney.

Yesterday, Mr Mahoney admitted: "I was never a Vietnam service member and I wish to formally apologise to all ex-Vietnam service personnel for my comments and assure you that these comments will never be made again."

He hung up on the Herald when asked to explain his actions.

Mr Miller, who also chairs the advisory board of the Ex-Vietnam Services' Association, said Mr Mahoney's claims were an "affront and studied insult" to the 37 colleagues of his who had lost their lives in Vietnam.

Mr Miller checked records after becoming suspicious about claims Mr Mahoney had made to returned servicemen about his war record.

According to affidavits produced yesterday, Mr Mahoney told veterans he had served three tours of duty in Vietnam with various rifle companies, but that the experience was "too upsetting for him and he didn't want to discuss it any further".

Mr Miller then discovered that Mr Mahoney had misled others about serving in Vietnam when he joined the Returned Services Association in Parnell and Kaitaia.

He carried on with that story up until yesterday, claiming first that he served with the Royal New Zealand Artillery, which fought in Vietnam between July 1965 and May 1971.

He then changed his story, saying that he served with the Australian Army in Vietnam, but under a different name.

RSA national president John Campbell said it was sad that someone would claim he was a veteran when he was not.

"The citizens of New Zealand hold those who actually served their country in military operations in high regard. Passing yourself off as a veteran is a mark of disrespect," he said.

Another RSA spokesman, Bill Hopper, said members' credentials were seldom checked. But it was "disgraceful" that anyone would mislead others about his or her war record just to become a member.

Ex-Vietnam Services Association president Basil Nissen said the whole affair was "a bit sad really".

This sort of deceit was relatively uncommon, he said. Far North Mayor Yvonne Sharp said she was "saddened" by what had happened.

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