A man accused of driving a getaway car for the aggravated robbery of a petrol station in Taradale has been found not guilty.
Daniel John Wharemate, 26, of Napier, stood trial this week in the Napier District Court facing one charge of attempted aggravated robbery and three charges of aggravated robbery detailing a spate of petrol station robberies in March 2015.
However, the trial took a turn just hours after commencing when one of the Crown's key witnesses, who had previously admitted their involvement in the crimes, admitted lying about Wharemate's involvement in two of the Hastings' robberies.
The witness, who was processed through the Youth Court, said he lied to protect associates and as a result Judge Geoff Rea discharged Wharemate of the attempted aggravated robbery charge and one aggravated robbery charge.
In the second day of the trial a third charge of aggravated robbery was dropped leaving just one charge remaining.
Crown prosecutor Jo Rielly said that despite the change to the Crown's case since her opening remarks the Crown's witnesses had always maintained Wharemate had driven them to the Caltex Service Station on Gloucester St in Taradale on the night of March 23, 2015.
When interviewed by police in March 2015 Wharemate said he had not seen the witnesses in several months but Mrs Rielly said text message data pulled from his cell phone by police indicated otherwise.
Defence counsel Matthew Phelps said his client pleaded not guilty to all four initial charges and had always maintained his innocence.
Mr Phelps said there had been a "real depth of deception" shown by one of the Crown's key witnesses.
"That's what makes him such a tricky customer ladies and gentleman, it's the depth of deception that he's perpetrated on you."
In his summary Judge Rea said it would be "staggering" if the jury did not find the Crown's two key witnesses' evidence unreliable.
During the trial the judge asked Constable Elizabeth Bradford, who had worked on the case, "Did it strike you that the deeper the hole they were getting into the more people they wanted to drag in with them?"
The jury of six men and six women retired at 3pm yesterday and took two hours to reach a verdict.
One female juror was discharged by the judge shortly before the jury returned with its verdict.