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They tarnished New Zealand's reputation as a safe tourist destination and shattered a young couple's dreams.
But yesterday the key player in the horrific kidnap and sexual assault of a Dutch couple was jailed for life.
Because of Keith McEwen and Christopher Manuel's actions, the newly married couple who sold everything to start a new life in New Zealand still need counselling and are too scared to return to home.
McEwen, who had been high on P for a week, planned the attack with Manuel as an accomplice.
Posing as police officers, McEwen and Manuel forced their way into the couple's camper van at Haruru Falls about 10pm on November 10 last year.
The couple were tied up at gunpoint and ordered to hand over money before being driven around the Bay of Islands.
During the attack, McEwen forced the woman to swallow pills which had a sedative effect. He even checked inside her mouth to ensure they had been swallowed.
As Manuel drove the vehicle, McEwen sexually violated the woman in the back.
Manuel then got out of the van and guarded the husband, who was gagged and covered with a blanket, while McEwen was inside violating and raping the wife.
Manuel later told police he knew at that stage "the worst was happening".
Before the couple's ordeal ended near Towai, the woman was subjected to further assaults, but the details of what McEwen did to her then can't be reported.
Yesterday in the High Court at Whangarei, McEwen was sentenced to preventive detention for a crime Justice Tony Randerson described as "cruel and sadistic in the extreme".
McEwen must spend at least 10 years before being eligible for parole, but he could be detained indefinitely if authorities believe he will reoffend if released.
Co-offender Manuel received a nine-year jail sentence for his part with a minimum non-parole period of six years.
McEwen had earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated robbery, two of kidnapping, five of sexual violation, and one each of, rape, attempted stupefaction and using a document.
Manuel pleaded guilty to two counts of kidnapping, two of aggravated robbery, being a party to rape and using a document.
Crown prosecutor Peter Magee said he could not put into words the impact actions by McEwen and Manuel had had on both victims and on New Zealand's image overseas.
He sought preventive detention for McEwen, saying lengthy jail terms in the past had had no impact and the community needed to be protected from him.
McEwen's lawyer Catherine Cull said that while her client did have an extensive criminal history, none of his previous offences were for serious violence or of a sexual nature.
McEwen wanted to address his methamphetamine addiction and provided he was successful, he would not commit another serious offence.
She asked that the sentence not be so "crushingly devastating" that it prevented McEwen from seeing "any light at the end of the tunnel".
Lawyer David James said Manuel was sorry for his part in the incident. He "felt for the victims and wished it had never happened".
Mr James said Manuel thought he was taking part in a robbery and had no idea there was going to be a sexual element.
Justice Randerson said the Dutch pair's lives had been destroyed.
They had come to New Zealand after being married in August last year and intended on gaining permanent residency.
"What should have been an exciting adventure touring New Zealand turned into a nightmare," the judge said.
They still required counselling and because they had been publicly identified by media in their own country, they did not want to return home.
He told McEwen: "You have shattered their lives. This is something they cannot or will not forget."
Justice Randerson said he was not confident that McEwen would address his drug addiction.
While McEwen might not commit another sexual offence, there was a strong chance he would carry out a robbery or kidnapping to fund his habit. A finite sentence would not protect the public.
Justice Randerson accepted Manuel's role was secondary to McEwen's but said it was still serious.
He had stood guard over the husband knowing full well what McEwen was doing with his wife.
Outside court, Detective Sergeant Rhys Johnston said the Dutch couple were pleased the case was over and they were working toward rebuilding their lives.