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No Hope Of Repayment For Nelson Firebombings

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Christchurch, Feb 4 NZPA - A judge says there is no hope of $16,739 reparation for the damage caused by Nelson drug user Benjamin Samuel Trathen during a three-day crime spree in November.

Trathen, 22 and unemployed, pleaded guilty to 14 charges in the Christchurch District Court today, and said, "Thank you, Sir," when Judge Graeme Noble remanded him in custody for a crown sentencing session on April 17.

Judge Noble called for a pre-sentence report but said there did not seem a realistic prospect of payment for the damage.

"A reparation report would be a waste of time, it seems to me," he said.

Trathen's offending included firebombings, a threat, and a car chase which included driving off after knocking a postman from his bicycle.

The police summary of facts said Trathen was an intravenous drug user who was on the methadone programme. He had been living an itinerant lifestyle.

On November 9, he threatened the occupants when they asked him to leave a flat he had been staying in Sovereign Street, Nelson. He also threatened a woman at another address.

That evening, he threw a Molotov cocktail through the front window of the Sovereign Street property into a room where a woman and child were watching television. It failed to ignite the petrol, but smashed the window and damaged the carpet.

Next morning he set fire to the front corner of the occupants' car outside the flat. Neighbours put out the fire with a garden hose.

He then went to the other woman's flat, in Hampden Street, where he poured petrol over her car in the basement car port and set it alight. The $3000 car was destroyed and the smoke and heat caused $4772 damage to the basement, carport, and pipes.

Early on November 11, security footage shows him stealing a van from a cleaning firm in Hardy Street.

He drove to Sovereign Street where he threatened to burn the house down with the victim in it, but drove off at speed.

He then tried to use a fuel card he found in the van he had unlawfully taken and at 9.37am he was spotted and chased by police but refused to stop.

He drove at high speed, overtaking on no-passing lines, and causing on-coming vehicles to swerve. The chase was abandoned in central Nelson when he drove through red traffic lights.

But Trathen continued to drive dangerously and knocked over a postie delivering mail at the corner of Hastings Street and Washington Road. The postie received minor injuries and his bike was damaged.

A second chase began near Moana Avenue, but Trathen evaded a police block and road spikes before he was blocked in and caught.

Police say his demeanour was aggressive and he had severe mood swings. In the opinion of officers present he was severely affected by drugs.

When they asked why he had been firebombing houses, Trathen replied, "Because I'm losing it".

He made a statement acknowleding throwing the Molotov cocktail, but could not remember burning that car. He admitted lighting the other car that was destroyed. He said he did that because the woman owed him money.

He told police he had decided after stealing the van that he was going to kill himself. He parked at the top of the Whangamoa Saddle and contemplated driving over the edge, but changed his mind and returned to Nelson.

He said he could get an imitation gun and then confront the police and have them kill him.

He said that after hitting the postman, he looked in his rear-view mirror and saw him moving so he decided to continue.

"In explanation for his actions, he cited various drug and psychiatric issues," the police summary states.

Trathen admitted two charges of arson, and one of attempted arson, unlawfully possessing an explosive, theft, unlawfully taking a motor vehicle, threatening to kill or cause grievous bodily harm, dishonestly using a document, reckless driving, failing to stop for a police car using its lights and siren, driving in a manner that caused injury, failing to stop and check after an accident, driving while his licence was suspended, and a breach of an earlier community work sentence.

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