A 43-year-old Auckland man is to appear in court this morning in relation to a murder in South Australia 18 years ago.

DNA evidence led to the breakthrough.

The Herald can reveal that the man, from Piha in West Auckland, was arrested at 6pm last night and will appear in the Waitakere District Court this afternoon.

The arrest came after police in South Australia allegedly linked the man by DNA to the killing of Robert Peter Sabeckis on January 13, 2000.


Detectives from South Australia joined local police to make the arrest and said the man was formally charged with murder at the Henderson police station following an interview last night.

Sabeckis, 42, was killed at a carpark on Tuit Rd, Maslin Beach, a southern coastal suburb of Adelaide.

He died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.

Police allege that after the shooting the killer drove off in Sabeckis' vehicle, which was then crashed into bushes and a fence further along Tuit Rd.

He was then seen running from the vehicle across paddocks.

Police found a sawn-off shotgun and jacket in the area.

They believe the gun was used to kill Sabeckis and the jacket belonged to the killer.

The shotgun and another firearm, were stolen during a break-in at a house at Aldinga Beach south of Adelaide on New Year's Eve - just days before Sabeckis was murdered.
The house was then burned down, destroying potential forensic evidence.

DNA believed to belong to the killer was taken from several items.

The scene of the break-in.
The scene of the break-in.

It was never matched to anyone until a change in New Zealand legislation allowed overseas law enforcement agencies to apply for access.

Detective Superintendent Dave Lynch said the man was arrested in New Zealand on a warrant issued in the South Australia Magistrates court in January.

"South Australia Police will seek the man's extradition to South Australia to face the murder charge," Lynch said.

"It is expected the man will appear in Waitakere District Court today where extradition proceedings will commence."

Robert Sabeckis was murdered in South Australia in 2000. Photo / Supplied
Robert Sabeckis was murdered in South Australia in 2000. Photo / Supplied

The New Zealand Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995 was amended in 2016 to allow access to and disclosure of information on the New Zealand DNA Database under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992.

"Since legislation was changed there have been several requests from overseas law enforcement agencies, however this is the first search that hit against a profile held on the New Zealand National DNA Database," said Lynch.

The man's DNA was collected in July last year when he was arrested for a minor crime - his first - in New Zealand.

Other than that offence, the man was not on the local police radar.

"Since the identification was made New Zealand Police have been working closely with their South Australian colleagues towards yesterday's arrest," Lynch said.

Police officer Mike Symonds with the modified shotgun used in the murder of Robert Sabeckis. Photo / Supplied
Police officer Mike Symonds with the modified shotgun used in the murder of Robert Sabeckis. Photo / Supplied

He added that international law enforcement agencies are working closer together to catch serious offenders who flee jurisdictions.

He could not comment further about the homicide investigation and referred media queries to South Australia Police.

This morning Detective Superintendent Des Bray said South Australia police were seeking information from anyone who recalls a 25-year-old Maori man who lived at Aldam St, Aldinga Beach, in 2000.

Bray said the man lived with a Caucasian family in Aldinga Beach, close to where the gun was stolen and the scene of the murder.

"He drove a brown or gold coloured Holden Gemini and attended Adult Learning at the Christies Beach High School in 2000," he said.

Bray said police were also keen to hear from anyone with information about the theft of the firearms, or the pistol that was taken that night and has not been recovered.

"Investigators have a lot of work to do in connection with this matter, and information we get from the public increase the likelihood of a good outcome to the investigation," he said.

"We are grateful for the assistance we have received to date from our colleagues with the New Zealand Police, and other agencies both in New Zealand and Australia."

Australian police will remain in New Zealand for some time investigating the man.

Detective Superintendent Des Bray, from the SAPOL Major Crime Investigation Branch, briefs the media about the arrest of a man in New Zealand in connection with the murder of Robert Sabeckis at Maslin Beach in 2000.

Posted by SA Police News on Thursday, 15 March 2018

"The investigation really starts now," said Bray.

"This is the first time we've known who the suspect is."

Bray said the man did not have a partner or children and lived at Piha at a boarding house.

He would have had no idea police were onto him.

"There have been no suspects at all for the last 18 years," Bray revealed.

He could not comment on the motive but said that police were "extremely relieved" an arrest had been made.

The victim's mother died some years ago and his brother had moved back to Lithuania.

Bray said he was an accountant and singer and a "decent person".

A $200,000 reward was offered in Australia in 2009 when police appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

"Any murder investigation raises concerns in the community and for the victim's family," said Acting Superintendent Denise Gray.

"Obviously they would like to know who the offender was.

"It was a vicious offence. He was shot twice, so it is very important for us that we solve those crimes - not only for the family but for the general community."