Midway through a six-week burglary spree, targeting 25 homes and stealing $250,000 of property, Taiki Jade Hira fancied a drink.
The 43-year-old had jemmied a window to get into a Falcon St home in Invercargill — one of 10 break-ins in the city — when he paused.
He grabbed a cup, a Raro sachet from the kitchen and made himself a drink, the Dunedin District Court heard yesterday.
Fortified, Hira bagged cash, jewellery, clothing, motorcycle equipment and a replica slug pistol, and left the home.
That impromptu beverage break led to his undoing.
Police examining the scene swabbed the cup and sent it to Environmental Science and Research for a DNA test.
A couple of weeks later, they had a hit.
There were further lapses from Hira that allowed police to confirm he was responsible for the spree, which began in Queenstown in December last year and extended to Invercargill and Dunedin.
After stealing a Toyota Hiace during a Mosgiel break-in on January 24, the defendant was seen loading stolen goods from the van into an Audi.
Police swabbed a torch they found in the abandoned Toyota.
It was Hira again.
If they needed any more confirmation, they got it through a Facebook post from the defendant's sister which depicted some items taken during an Abbotsford burglary just days earlier.
"When the bro sends me an early birthday present to add to my unhealthy obsession with watches," she wrote.
It was one thing for police to know Hira was the burglar, another to stop him.
"You were unrelenting in your carrying out these burglaries," Judge Peter Rollo said.
"The summary refers to several occasions when you were nearly caught and outran police."
Hira travelled home to Hastings on February 8.
Police pursued his Audi, complete with stolen number plates, a few days after his return and in the car found items from the burglaries including jewellery, foreign currency and Lotto tickets.
Once in custody, police gained access to Hira's cellphone which showed he had been in the southern cities at the relevant times.
Shortly after being charged, the man pleaded guilty to 25 counts of burglary and one of theft from a vehicle.
Despite the acknowledgement, police were convinced there were other gang members involved in the spate of crimes.
Hira, though, would not name names.
The victim of his first burglary, a prominent Queenstown businessman, said he lost nearly $100,000 of property during the December break-in, while he and his wife were in Auckland.
He told the Otago Daily Times he believed they had been targeted.
"They went through the place pretty systematically," he said.
The worst part, the victim said, was that his wife had lost a ring given to her by her late mother, as well as a 1908 half-sovereign on a chain.
"She feels absolutely violated," he said.
Counsel Chris Lynch said her client originally came south to attend a polytechnic course, which he had almost completed.
Associates followed him down, however, and "he went back to some of his old behaviours", she said.
Judge Rollo referred to a cultural report which detailed Hira's "horrific" upbringing, punctuated by violence.
The court heard his father was a well-known Mongrel Mob member and the defendant himself was patched by the age of 23.
While the background explained Hira's descent into crime, the judge said, it did not excuse it.
"It will take possibly years for [the victims] to recover. And you know from your experiences how deep such cuts can run for a person," he said.
"It's the concept of utu — you have to pay the price."
Hira was jailed for three years, 10 months and will serve 18 months before being eligible for parole.
Judge Rollo refused to burden the defendant with the $100,000 reparation that was sought.
Dec 12: Taiki Hira breaks into Queenstown home, steals nearly $100,000 of property.
Dec 24-Jan 18: 10 burglaries in Invercargill suburbs of Avenal, Gladstone and Windsor.
Jan 18: DNA taken from cup at one home traced back to Hira.
Jan 18-Feb 8: 14 break-ins in Dunedin, nine of which in Mosgiel.
Jan 24: Swab from stolen van provides match with Hira.
Jan 30: Hira's sister posts photos of stolen watches he sends her.
Feb 12: Police arrest the defendant in Hawke's Bay, find stolen goods in his car and home.