Teen torment leaves elderly man at his wits' end

By Katie Holland

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An 82-year-old Rotorua man says he has lost the will to live after teenagers stole his car and, with it, his independence.

Gavin Hayes said his ordeal began earlier this year when a young girl approached him as he was getting into his car and asked if she could have a ride to town. He was going anyway, so agreed.

"It started from there. She kept coming back wanting to take the car."

He said other young people then began turning up on his Glenholme doorstep, sometimes letting themselves in through his unlocked door. It was around this time items began to disappear from his flat.

"The [Freeview] decoder went. Food out of the fridge.

"If there was any silver laying on the table they will pick it up when you're not looking. They'd take any bloody thing. I chased a couple of them out but they came back again."

But it was Mr Hayes' car that appeared to be the main target.

"They'll sit there and they'll start yakking and they'll grab your keys when you are not looking and walk out the door and take off."

He said the first time the car was taken, he called police who returned it to him soon after. Then in July his keys and car disappeared again and this time the vehicle was never found.

So a friend bought him a new car for $1500.

"He said 'now don't lose it cause you won't get another one' and I said 'yeah, I realise that'."

But last Tuesday a teenage girl Mr Hayes had never seen before knocked on his door.

"She asked if so and so lived here and I said no I don't know anyone by that name and she said 'do you mind if I use your toilet?'.

"My keys were on the gas heater and she came out of the toilet and stood there for a couple of minutes then she just grabbed the keys and ran off out the door. I chased her out the door and I was running across the lawn alongside the car banging on the window."

He reported it to police, who later told him the car had been crashed and written off.

He can't afford insurance and has no money for another new car so is now holed up in his flat.

"It has hit me hard," he said. "Without a car I am stuffed, absolutely stuffed."

He can no longer get to the shops or to town, visit his niece or his brother's grave.

But not being able to get to Taumarunui, where his wife is buried, has hit him hardest.

"I won't get back to see her now. I used to go quite regularly and spend a bit of time with her. I will miss going to see her."

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said neighbours had been keeping a close eye on Mr Hayes since discovering what had been going on.

"Every time anybody comes here now one of us will come across," he said.

"If he wants any of us over here urgently he will just pull one side of his curtains over."

He said he had noticed a drastic deterioration in Mr Hayes' mental state since the last theft.

"He just said to me how long would it take for him to die if he just lay there," he said.

"He's lost, he doesn't give a damn anymore, he's that sad about everything."

Mr Hayes admits he has given up on life after this latest blow. "I just want to die, that's all I want to do."

Senior Sergeant Brendon Keenan of the Rotorua police said a 14-year-old girl and a 17-year-old woman were currently going through the youth court process for unlawfully taking a motor vehicle.

Mr Keenan said police were aware of four occasions in recent months when Mr Hayes had allegedly been victimised.

He said elderly and disabled people were often more vulnerable to opportunistic criminals.

"If we make them less vulnerable that removes the opportunity.

"They need a guardian to look after them - that may be a neighbour watching out for them to stop them being a victim. It may be education - locking doors and windows, not letting people in your house."

The neighbour said: "Through no fault of his own he's lost his car and he's lost his mobility, lost his will to live.

"Where's the fairness in that?"

- Rotorua Daily Post

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