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Government minister Simon Bridges took on murdering rapist Tony Robertson in 2006 in a courtroom clash which showed the teenager in the dock had no fear of his accusers.

Aged 19 at the time, Robertson was accused of abducting and indecently assaulting a 5-year-old girl.

Mr Bridges was 29 at the time, a prosecution lawyer in Tauranga who was making a name for himself.


The Herald was granted permission by the High Court to access the 2006 court record - including Mr Bridges' blistering cross-examination of Robertson.

The young prosecutor's first question set the tone: "Mr Robertson, can we begin by agreeing you are a liar?"

What followed was a heated defence from Robertson, littered with swearing and Mr Bridges' insistence the young man was lying.

Robertson's defence included floating his alibi "Jerome" - an individual who police could never find. He also had to handle questions about the boy he mugged for a cellphone and the two children he attempted to lure into his car the day before he successfully abducted the girl aged 5.

Robertson is shown raging at Mr Bridges, accusing police of tampering with evidence, witnesses of getting it wrong, and others of lying.

He showed himself to be well-versed on the evidence. In one exchange, he told Mr Bridges: "I have every statement in my cell and read through it word by word and you can clearly see [witnesses] have been manipulated."

DNA testing for saliva showed nothing.

Robertson went for Mr Bridges: "Did you find any of my DNA on her? Did you find any photos on that [cellphone]? You didn't. You have got nothing. All you have got is your f****** word. You have no DNA. She is saying this c*** licked her [leg]. Surely if I licked her leg you would have found my DNA on her?"


At one point, Mr Bridges challenged him on an answer he had given and Robertson spat back: "Brush your hair back behind your ears so you can hear me."

The format sees Mr Bridges' question posed first followed by Robertson's answer.



One of 'NZ's coldest and worst offenders'

Mr Bridges had prosecuted hundreds of serious crimes in the Bay of Plenty before entering politics. He called the Robertson case "unforgettable" and described him as one of "New Zealand's coldest and worst offenders".

Mr Bridges role followed the arrest of Robertson, discovered during a search for the girl by Sergeant David Thompson who had followed a hunch and checked out the remote Kaiate Falls Rd.

He found Robertson at the side of a rural road, the sobbing girl inside his car.

She told him: "The man hurt my heart."

Robertson denied abducting the girl, saying he had seen her, lost and sad, and stopped to help. She described an indecent assault and Robertson, who had an answer for everything in court, couldn't explain how the girl's pink-and-cream Barbie boxers, with pink bows and hearts, were in the footwell of the back seat.

Mr Bridges secured convictions for kidnapping and indecent assault and sought preventive detention - an unusual step for an offender who was still a teenager.

He went to court armed with a psychological report that said Robertson had a "high risk of further sexual offending following release from prison" if he didn't undertake specialist treatment.

At the sentencing in October 2006

Justice Keane rejected Mr Bridges' bid to hold Robertson indefinitely and gave him eight years in prison. He told Robertson: "You are not simply deemed to be a lost cause at the age of 19."

One reason Justice Keane gave was the ability, recently granted by Parliament, to impose an Extended Supervision Order on Robertson's release. He was made the subject of one, but to no avail. He went on kill and rape Mrs Gotingco.

Mr Bridges, Cabinet Minister and MP for Tauranga, told the Herald it was an "unforgettable" case.

"It was a combination of the remarkable circumstances and Robertson himself. The crimes I prosecuted were incredibly cold and premeditated. I can still clearly remember the little girl telling the court that Robertson had stolen her on her walk to school. It's a parent's worst nightmare."

The other striking aspect was Roberton's presence at the trial, which Mr Bridges described as "chilling", especially as he gave evidence in the witness box.

The transcripts in black-and-white only hint at the full story, Mr Bridges said today.

"He is an incredibly cold, angry and dangerous individual. I had to ask for extra security to stand between us as I questioned him, which I had not done in any other case. You just had a sense you couldn't predict what he would do," said Mr Bridges.

"It was a chilling case. Robertson would be one of New Zealand's coldest and worst offenders."



Tony Robertson is convicted of several offences, the most significant relating to the abducation and molestation of a 5-year-old girl.

2006: An 8-year sentence is imposed against Robertson, who began the year in custody hitting a prison guard over the head with an electric fan.

2008: Robertson's final appeal to the Supreme Court over his conviction fails.

2013 December: At the end of an 8-year sentence, Robertson is released under strict conditions imposed by the Parole Board including wearing a GPS tracker.
2014 January: Robertson is convicted of his first breach of release conditions and arrested on his second breach.

2014 February: Department of Corrections successfully seeks an Extended Supervision Order, requiring Robertson to wear a GPS tracker for 10 years, among other conditions.

2014 March: Police check Robertson's GPS movements and clear him during an inquiry into a potentially indecent approach to a child near his home.

2014 May: Blessie Gotingco goes missing walking home from the bus stop near her home. Robertson is arrested and charged with her murder.

2015 May: Robertson is convicted of the murder and rape of Mrs Gotingco.

2015 July: Name suppression is lifted.