One of the victims of a predatory backpacker hostel operator has spoken about the drugging and indecent assault he suffered.

The victim, who cannot be named, told the Herald he had fallen victim to a planned assault which included his tequila drink being spiked by Kaitaia hostel owner Michael Harris, 58.

The young man - who was on a six month backpacking holiday in New Zealand from the United States - woke during the night, befuddled by the spiked drink to find Harris in his bed.

Harris was to have been sentenced in the High Court at Whangarei on a range of charges relating to drugging, indecently assaulting and taking photographs of his victims. Most of the 42 charges to which he pleaded guilty related to 14 men who stayed at his Kaitaia hostel between 2011 and 2014.


But some charges dated back to 2005 for offending against a boy who was 15 at the time of the first offence.

The court was forced to postpone sentencing to hear legal arguments over a police application to seize the Kaitaia backpacker hostel for which Harris paid $1.2 million.

The victim who spoke to the Herald had returned to New Zealand from the United States to read a victim impact statement.

Justice John Fogarty allowed the man to read his statement to the court even though he was unable to sentence Harris today.

In it, the man told the court he had seen Harris as a "father figure" and "it felt so dirty" to discover he was the victim of a planned drugging and indecent assault.

Harris, who needed the court's permission to speak, sobbed as he told the victim: "I just want to say how sorry I am for any hurt I have caused you."

The victim told the Herald after the court hearing how the indecent assault had happened three weeks before he was due to end a six-month backpacking trip to New Zealand.

He had come to New Zealand with two friends and traveled extensively through the North Island and South Island.


Backpacking here had added appeal because of a working holiday programme which allowed travelers to earn money while backpacking.

It was this opportunity which led to the victim and friends staying at Mainstreet Lodge in Kaitaia, where they met Harris.

He said the atmosphere of the lodge with travellers from around the world held great appeal. Having completed a seven-day hike at the top of the country, they returned to work in local orchards and enjoy evenings at the lodge with a few beers.

"We stayed at the hostel and hung out with all the other workers. The people at the hostel made the hostel."

Harris, he said, seemed "odd" but "it seemed like he was sincere". "It was completely different to from what it turned out to be."

On leaving the hostel, Harris had offered to find work for the three travellers if they happened to be in the area again.

Before long, the victim found himself on the road alone - his friends had become homesick and headed back to the US.

Short on funds, he found himself in Kerikeri with the prospect of work a few weeks distant so rang Harris.

"That's when I reached out to Mike and he said if I could get to Kaitaia then he would find me work."

It turned out to be renovation work on the lodge - initially on Harris' private residence and then on one of the shared accommodation buildings.

"He kind of took me under his wing," said the man of Harris. "He would find work for me, a free place to stay, if I needed to go to the store he would offer to drive me."

By then, the man had moved into a spare room in Harris' home while continuing renovation work on the shared accommodation with another traveller.

The evening of the assault, Harris had asked what spirits he liked to drink. "We were sitting around watching TV. Most of the time I would drink beer in the evenings. He had gone and bought liquor for us. He asked what we liked to drink."

The victim opted for tequila and, having had one drink, found himself experiencing an unusual effect.

"I felt like I was going to pass out. I was so tired. I remember going upstairs and that's the last I really remember.

"I woke up and he was in my bed and he had his arms around me. I was pretty hazy. I woke up and just didn't know what was going on.

"He told me I was sick and he was taking care of me."

Harris got out of bed and immediately left the room. The next morning, Harris asked the man "if I was feeling better".

"Things were just weird then after. I just didn't know what had happened. I was confused."

He left the lodge a few days later, having shelved plans to stay in Kaitaia until his flight to the US a few weeks later.

Back in the US, he was troubled by the way his trip had ended. "I knew something had happened I just couldn't name it. You don't really know if you don't remember. It's sometimes worse not knowing."

Then when a complaint was made about Harris, police - believing there were other victims - called for others to come forward.

Those he had travelled with had forward on Facebook media articles written about the police call for victims. "I instantly knew. It kind of made everything clear."

The man emailed police, provided a statement by email and was interviewed over Skype.

By then, he realised there were a number of victims. "It was pretty shocking."

The delay in sentencing caused little concern - he said the US court system was also beset by delays and it was no surprise.

"I didn't really come here for him to be sentenced but to make a statement to him and to the court. That's what really mattered - being able to read my statement."

The aftermath of the incident had left a mark but 'I have tried to push it away and not think about it'.

"When I think about it, it feels kind of gross. It's scary how easy it was for him to drug me. The fact he did it over and over to many people shows he had a plan, to an extent."

Police found evidence of a common sleeping pill during the investigation.

The man said he had recently disclosed the assault to his mother, which was difficult.

"It was awkward, kind of embarassing. Something you don't really want to talk to your parents about."

He said he didn't connect the assault with New Zealand, other than it happened here.

"This is something which could happen anywhere. I just happened while I was in New Zealand."