A Dutch traveller has shared his terrifying experience of being dragged from a campervan, bashed unconscious and his girlfriend attacked on the side of a Northland road. Senior reporter Kristin Edge discovers the impact the attack has had on the young man's life.
It was supposed to be a magical trip to a dream country for Dutch tourist David and his American girlfriend Katherine.
They hadn't seen each other for five months and meeting in New Zealand was going to be a trip of a lifetime. But eight days into their New Zealand holiday, their dream turned into a terrifying nightmare.
It took just minutes in a layby on the side of a Northland road for the dream unravel.
Northland teenager Hamuera Tierney, who told police he was drunk and bored, dragged the Dutch tourist from a campervan and beat him unconscious and attacked his American girlfriend.
During the attack, Tierney tried to choke David.
Appearing in the Whangārei District Court Tierney was sentenced to nine months' home detention after pleading guilty to injuring with intent to injure and assaulting a female on August 3, 2018.
Tierney was also ordered to pay $2500 to each of the victims for emotional harm.
Sentencing Judge Deidre Orchard said the couple had come to New Zealand for a dream holiday but ''the chances of that happening were ruined by you'.'
"The circumstances were akin to a home invasion because that van was their temporary home while in this country. The impact on the victims has been considerable," she said.
The fact Tierney was drinking and taking unprescribed steroids to help with weight lifting could have been a catalyst for the violent behaviour.
She gave Tierney credit for his youth, remorse and guilty pleas.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Stu Wilkes said Tierney had ''let himself down, he's let his family down and he's let New Zealand down".
But whether the young tourists - who didn't want their surnames used - will ever recover from their New Zealand ordeal remains to be seen.
But one message David wants to get out to other people travelling to New Zealand is to be aware of the risks.
"I feel that tourists are vey much unaware of the risks of travelling in New Zealand; assaults and robberies do take place in New Zealand just like in any other country.
"The fact that New Zealand is viewed as an exception to this is simply untrue and in my eyes a dangerous myth, since it encourages tourists to do things they would not do in their own countries, like freedom camping.
"I'm not saying to stay away from New Zealand, but to travel the country while making use of the same common sense as they would use in any other country."
For months David had been planning his trip to New Zealand, a country he considered one of the most beautiful in the world with pristine forests and long sweeping beaches.
Most importantly, after five months of separation he would get to see his girlfriend again.
"New Zealand was supposed to be the light at the end of the tunnel, a reward for all those months apart," David, a 23-year-old student, recalled.
As a student, his savings were minimal so to pay for the holiday he worked up to 25 hours a week as a homework tutor.
The price of the plane ticket was more than he made in almost six months.
"All of this would have been worth it if the trip had gone according to plan, but sadly it did not."
They arrived in New Zealand on July 28 last year and hired a campervan.
Reunited in Auckland the couple spent eight days in the city and surrounds before deciding to venture north to where they knew they would find the amazing coastlines they had only seen in travel books and on the internet.
It was late, about 11pm, on August 2 as the couple travelled through Mangawhai. They decided to pull over in a layby for the night and continue on their journey the next morning.
However, they were woken at 12.20am by someone banging on the side of the campervan.
Startled by the aggressive thumping the couple lay still and tried to ignore the banging.
But the banging continued followed by a male yelling: "You better not be sleeping in there" and "who gave you permission to park on my farm?"
Reluctantly David opened the door and came face to face with Hamuera Tierney, aged 18 at the time, who refused to let the door shut.
Petrified Katherine rang for police help. Tierney demanded they get out of the campervan and he covered his face with a scarf.
When Tierney tried to get in the van David used a ladder to push him away.
Tierney grabbed David's leg causing him to fall backwards and strike his head on a table.
David was then dragged screaming out of the van where Tierney punched him repeatedly, knocking him unconscious.
During the attack Tierney tried to choke David, who was struggling to breathe and was blacking out.
"When I was lying on the ground, I was convinced that I would die. I knew that I could not take any more punches on my head and I really felt that I was slipping away," David remembers.
Katherine tried to pull the attacker off her boyfriend and was then punched in the face, breaking her nose.
Tierney ran off into the darkness and the terrified couple were able to flee in their van.
But David says their attacker followed them in a car.
"We were on the phone to police and they asked us to stop at a junction after five minutes of driving and told the operator the name of the road. We saw a car approaching and immediately recognised the man inside: it was the attacker. He opened his door and tried to run towards our car, but we were able to drive away.
"I was scared to death."
It took them 90 minutes to find a safe place to stop - at the Silverdale St John Ambulance station - where they were met by police.
"I was too scared to get out of the car. I was clinging to the wheel and didn't get out to the camper until the paramedic opened my door," David says.
The couple were taken to hospital.
Once they were released from North Shore Hospital they continued their New Zealand holiday deciding to fly to the South Island — a decision they doubted multiple times, but was also the first victory over their trauma.
"We only stayed in hostels and travelled by car. Due to the aftermath of the attack we only travelled by day, since we were too scared."
The left New Zealand on August 29, changed people.
Police investigating the case told the couple on October 7 they had a DNA match with Tierney and on January 10 they arrested him and charged him. Tierney was released on bail on January 21.
Since leaving New Zealand the enormity of their ordeal and the impact it had on David and Katherine has become clear. David wanted to return to New Zealand no matter how painful to see his attacker sentenced.
However, he did not have the money and in the end David decided the risk of negative impact in his recovery if he travelled to New Zealand could be too great.
"I don't have the illusion that any of this will make an impact on the assailant or change him in any positive way. I saw the hate and anger in his eyes that night and to me he is the human version of evil and that will never change.
"The attack took place in the first week of our holiday and it had an enormous impact on the rest of our trip, but also my life ever since. Instead of remembering New Zealand as one of the best trips I ever made it became the worst thing that I ever experienced in my life."
After the attack David suffered complications as a result of the severe concussion, including headaches. Reading or concentrating would lead to more headaches and make him dizzy and nauseous.
He sleeps more and was limited in the physical activities he could do.
But it wasn't just the physical limitations, the attack struck him at his core.
Just three weeks after returning home to Holland he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
"It started by having very bad nightmares; this was something I never suffered from before, but now I had them every single night. Some were worse than others, but in many of them one of my close family members or my girlfriend would die.
"As another result of the nightmares, I tried to avoid going to bed too early and waited until I was very tired before I would go to sleep, because less time sleeping would mean less time for nightmares."
The nightmares were soon accompanied by flashbacks during the day.
"I still remember the rhythm of the punches on my head, the darkness outside and how cold it was. What I remember most of all is the fear and the loneliness, it was so silent outside and there was no one else to help us."
More recently he has suffered from bad mood swings and some days he is so depressed he just cries.
The pain, the stress and the trauma was too much the young couple and they have parted ways.
"I never thought that it was possible that one person could cause so much trauma and damage to two people," David said.
"The sad reality is that Katherine and I were also damaged in such a way that it was impossible to stay together any longer. We still have huge difficulties coping with the aftermath of the attack and thinking of the other person just makes us think of the attack. We simply associate each other with all the badness of the attack."
The reason for the attack is unclear as Tierney did not demand money. David thinks he must just have wanted a fight or was high on drugs and he and Katherine were the unfortunate targets.
But one thing is clear: David and Katherine will never be the same.
"In the end New Zealand has changed my whole life in a very negative way. It changed me as a person and means that I can never walk the world in the same carefree and spontaneous way as I used to do.
"I now realise more and more that I was really happy before I went to New Zealand. I had a great family, close friends and a great girlfriend who really meant the world to me. Luckily enough my family is still as loving as before, and my friends have been very supportive since my return.
"The sad reality is that in the aftermath of the attack I also lost someone who was very close to me and this still makes me sad every day. Ever since the attack I have spent every day fighting and working really hard to deal with the aftermath of the attack and the flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks. Sometimes I am able to convince myself that things are getting better, but in the many bad times I still fear that it will always stay this way."