A Tauranga dog handler was driving home from tracking the scent of the men involved in a Mount Maunganui home invasion when he unwittingly picked up one of the offenders hitch-hiking, a jury has been told.
Constable Nathan Kluit's statement was read to jurors at Tauranga District Court on Thursday as part of a trial of two men accused of being involved in the July 20, 2018, home invasion.
Chaliedene Taueki and Maninoa Vincent Felise have each pleaded not guilty to a charge of aggravated robbery and a charge of aggravated burglary.
The Crown says they were part of a group of armed and masked intruders who held a couple at gunpoint, demanding drugs and money in a case of mistaken identity. However, the defence says the two men were not in Tauranga when the event happened.
The court heard that Kluit and his dog had been called to help find the intruders who fled the home invasion. From a statement read to the court, Kluit said he managed to track the scent from a dumped maroon Honda at Omanu Golf Course, opposite Spur Ave, to the harbour end of Tauranga Airport.
"While on my way home ... I passed a male hitch-hiker along the expressway between 11th and 15th Ave."
Kluit's statement said he turned back and approached the man, who turned out to be William Court-Clausen, offering a ride, concerned for his safety on the expressway.
Court-Clausen has since appeared in Tauranga District Court and pleaded guilty for his role in the home invasion. He is yet to be sentenced.
"He accepted the ride and got into the dog van. He said he had an argument with a friend and was hitch-hiking to Auckland," the court heard.
Kluit said Court-Clausen told him the friend had dumped him on the side of the road, after having travelled from Wellington. Kluit offered to take the man as far as Te Puna, which he accepted.
While in conversation Court-Clausen gave his name and birthday plus said he had no phone and his friend and he had been in business.
After dropping Court-Clausen off, Kluit called his supervisor to say he had suspicions about the man.
A short time later the supervisor called back to say police would like to talk to Court-Clausen, who was a "returning overseas offender". Kluit drove back to where he had dropped him off.
Kluit said he found Court-Clausen and told him there had been an incident overnight and police would like to talk to him.
"I said he didn't have to go back with me but he said he would."
Kluit drove Court-Clausen to the Z fuel station in Bethlehem, where other officers took over.
The trial continues.