Claw hammer hold-up duo cleared

  • 28/01/2016

Two Mangakino men embraced in the dock when a jury found them not guilty on Thursday of an aggravated robbery at an ATM a year ago.

Defence lawyers for Alex Tuapawa and Richard Heller successfully argued that the duo's request for money from two men was to settle a drug debt.

When Alex Hayden Tuapawa, 27, and Richard Joseph Heller, 32, went on trial on in the Rotorua District Court on Monday, Crown prosecutor Ngaroma Tahana said they'd issued a "money or the lake" ultimatum to two forestry workers they took to the money machine close to a hydro lake.

However, defence lawyers argued the request for the withdrawal had been to settle a drug debt.

For Heller, Harry Edward said the request for $400 was too pat, that had it been a robbery no particular amount would have been specified.

He urged the jury to disregard the fact Heller had 'rogue' tattooed across his forehead.

He said a dictionary definition of the word was that of a 'mischievous person', which Heller probably was.

Tuapawa's lawyer Moana Dorset said there was no question that the money had been for anything but payment for a cannabis deal.

When Judge Maree Mackenzie discharged the pair they thanked her to a background of applause from the public gallery.