Bulk of gang members acquitted in kidnap trial

  • 07/12/2016
The jury took 16 hours to reach its verdicts after four weeks of evidence (file)
The jury took 16 hours to reach its verdicts after four weeks of evidence (file)

Eight Head Hunters gang members have been acquitted of the bulk of the 62 serious criminal charges they faced over the kidnapping of a wealthy businessman and an employee.

Only four of the accused were found guilty of any charges by a jury of 11 in the High Court at Rotorua on Wednesday - three of those verdicts were by a majority decision of 10 to 1.

The verdicts were greeted with applause from the public gallery and those acquitted embraced and slapped each other on the back; they also hugged those found guilty.

The jury took 16 hours to reach its verdicts after four weeks of evidence.

Throughout the trial security was tight with a large police and court security officer presence, with the defendants guarded by five Corrections officers.

In a 10 to one majority decision a guilty verdict was entered against Liam John Kane on a charge of unlawfully possessing a firearm, a .410 gauge shotgun, in Tauranga on February 18, 2015.

In another 10 to one majority decision Benjamin Paul Dwyer and Brent Anthony Gunning were found guilty of robbing the businessman's girlfriend of her cellphone in Tauranga on January 20 last year.

Gunning was the only member of the group who does not belong to the Head Hunters. The robbery was the sole charge he faced.

Also by a 10 to one majority decision Jordan Alexander Christian was found guilty of the theft of the businessman's Isuzu truck.

Dwyer, Christian, Kane, Stephen William Daly, David Peter Clark, Sam Wiremu Rolleston, Matthew John McDonnell and Stacey Paora were found not guilty of participating in an organised criminal group.

Daly, Rolleston, Kane, Dwyer, Paora and McDonnell were found not guilty of kidnapping the businessman's 20-year-old maintenance worker at Tauranga on January 17, 2015.

Daly, Rolleston and Dwyer were acquitted of injuring him with intent to injure him and assaulting him with a weapon. That charge alleged he'd had teaspoons placed under his eyelids at a Rotorua house in an attempt to force him to reveal his employer's whereabouts.

The three were acquitted of a similar charge a few hours earlier on February 16, 2015 at Tauranga.

Daly was found not guilty of recklessly discharging a firearm on February 17.

Daly, Dwyer, McDonnell, Kane and Rolleston were acquitted of assaulting the businessman with intent to injure him at his Lake Tarawera retreat.

The jury also threw out a charge of kidnapping the businessman laid against Daly, Rolleston, Christian, Clark, McDonnell, Kane, Dwyer and Paora.

It acquitted them of aggravated robbery relating to $7000 the businessman said in evidence he withdrew from a Taupo bank.

Daly, Dwyer, Kane, McDonnell, Rolleston and Paora were found not guilty of unlawfully taking the businessman's VW Polo from his Lake Tarawera property.

Daly was acquitted of the theft of the man's Audi.

Justice Timothy Brewer discharged those who were acquitted, bailing the four who he convicted after the guilty verdicts to appear for sentencing on February 28.

The jury was reduced to 11 in the trial's second week when the foreman was discharged for going online to check out a matter he believed could relate to the trial.