A man stole close to $400,000 worth of artwork - and then burnt down a $1.9 million Taupō home to cover it up.
David Vicent Hill, 37, was sentenced to five years' prison for three charges of arson, burglary and unlawfully being in a building by Judge Maree MacKenzie in the Rotorua District Court yesterday.
On April 14, while the rest of the nation was in lockdown, Hill entered a lakefront property on Lake Terrace in Taupō and stole $382,000 worth of artwork before returning to burn down the property.
Just over a week later, he was caught with $150,000 worth of the stolen artwork after setting up camp at another unoccupied property.
Crown prosecutor Matthew Jenkins told the court that Hill had caused $2 million worth of destruction when he committed the burglary then burnt down the property to "get rid of the evidence".
He said Hill had sent texts that "plainly admitted" his guilt, such as: "I took the art and torched it" and that he had worked for days to "disarm the alarm at the property".
But, in explanation, Hill had said the numbers for the alarm had come to him in a dream.
On April 14, Hill entered the Lake Terrace property valued at $1.9 million, the summary of facts supplied to the Rotorua Daily Post stated.
No one had been staying in the house and it had last been occupied on March 23.
It was owned by international owners and was being rented out for short-term holiday accommodation, the summary said.
Inside, Hill began identifying items of value and organised others to come to the property to help take them, it said.
The group began removing items including a "valuable art collection" worth in excess of $382,000, it said.
At 2.05am the next morning, Hill returned to the house with a camp-style cooker and ignited it to start fires in two different parts of the house, it stated.
He fled as the fire quickly spread causing "total destruction" of the property, it said.
He then found an unoccupied "derelict" property on a nearby street and took over two vacant rooms with his personal belongings, it said.
He set up a "makeshift" bedroom in one and stored his belongings in the other.
On April 22, police searched the property and found about $150,000 worth of the stolen artwork.
This included eight paintings found in a bedroom wardrobe, three paintings hanging on the walls of Hill's makeshift bedroom and two large mirrors.
All the items had been taken from the Lake Terrace house, it said.
Judge MacKenzie said there was "no evidence that he [Hill] was remorseful".
She described the offending as "highly premeditated" as Hill knew the house was not occupied and had burnt it down to "conceal" the burglary.
Taking into account the property, artwork and loss of earnings - the extent of the loss was "significant" on the owners, she said.
She said the burglary was "brazen" and on the "serious end of the spectrum".
Hill had a history of both serious and less serious previous convictions but these were not relevant to this case, she said.
More than $2 million of reparation was sought but this was declined.