Otago Daily Times

Man acquitted in NZ Cracked road contribute­d to accident, coroner says linked to torture cell


WELLINGTON: A man who was acquitted of murder in Wellington is now a suspect in a case involving a makeshift torture chamber in the Netherland­s.

William Jan Haanstra (43) was acquitted of murdering Terri King, whose body was found in the Tararua Ranges in 1999.

He is now one of nine people arrested by Dutch police, after they discovered seven shipping containers converted into a makeshift prison and a soundproof­ed ‘‘torture chamber’’ while investigat­ing gang activity.

The chamber came with a dentist’s chair and tools including pliers, scalpels and handcuffs.

In 1999, the then22year­old Haanstra was living in Miramar with his family, who had emigrated to New Zealand from the Netherland­s.

He was charged over the murder of Terri King, whose body had been found in the Tararua ranges with a gunshot wound to the back of his head, but was acquitted by a jury after a twomonth trial in the High Court at Wellington.

Correspond­ent Stephanie van den Berg told Morning Report the police revealed in April that they had hacked into the encrypted messaging system of an organised crime network.

That allowed police to see what criminals were planning and one of the things they discovered was that people were chatting about this torture chamber, she said.

In July, police discovered the seven shipping containers, one of which contained a torture chamber and released video of it.

‘‘This is really like a horror movie torture chamber, where it’s all soundproof­ed, there’s a dentist chair bolted to the floor, there’s handcuffs hanging from the ceiling and they found a whole array of instrument­s which they think would have been used for torture, which include garden shears, pincers, hammers, scalpels, saws, gas burners — it’s really quite horrific when you see the arsenal of weapons that they have,’’ van den Berg said.

The suspects have already been in court for a procedural hearing and said the torture chamber was only for show and meant to scare people off but that they did not intend using it.

The police have said that the suspects were sending each other messages about potential victims that they wanted to kidnap and take to the chamber and they stepped in to warn those targets.

Haanstra is not one of those suspected of building the torture chamber and has been characteri­sed as a career criminal by Dutch media, van den Berg said.

Haanstra has also been linked to a 2008 Rotterdam cold case murder.

‘‘He was . . . a suspect but also acquitted or let go by the police for lack of evidence.’’

She said there are reports that the family of the Rotterdam victim is hoping the case will be reopened now Haanstra is in custody, and people will come forward.

The Dutch police expect many other criminal cases to come to light as a result of the conversati­ons they managed to hack. — RNZ

AUCKLAND: A coroner has found a cracked road in Northland was partly responsibl­e for the deaths of two Spanish tourists in December 2009.

Eva Fajula Rovira and Joan Roma Serra, both 34 years old, were hit and killed when a Linfox truck and trailer driven by Ioane Etuale crossed the centre line on State Highway 1 at Towai, north of Whangarei.

An inquiry had been held into the deaths previously; another was scheduled so Etuale could give evidence.

Coroner Peter Ryan found the uneven, cracked road caused the truck’s front wheels to bounce, causing a loss of contact with the road surface momentaril­y. Without the front wheels touching the road, Etuale was unable to steer the truck.

At the time, the truck was taking a slight bend in the road. Without his steering, Etuale braked heavily but crossed the centre line into the path of the oncoming camper van the two tourists were in, killing them.

Serious Crash Unit evidence was that from the moment of the truck’s ‘‘bounce’’ until impact was possibly three seconds, with a standard reaction time for a driver to perceive a hazard of 1.5sec, leaving another 1.5sec for either driver to take action.

There was a bank on the lefthand side of the road which meant the camper van, driven by Roma Serra, could not drive off the road to avoid the collision.

The Transport Agency provided a report on the section of the road that said the uneven pavement ‘‘caused quite noticeable wheel bounce in vehicles with less sophistica­ted suspension setups, such as trucks and trailers’’.

Etuale had driven the road on several other occasions, including four days before this crash,

Mr Ryan continued.

‘‘I consider that the most likely explanatio­n for the cause of this crash is a combinatio­n of momentary unprepared­ness by Mr Etuale at the critical moment when his truck entered the section of uneven surface . . . Mr Etuale was unprepared for the bounce and its effect on the truck,’’ he said.

‘‘The condition of the road was a contributi­ng factor to the crash, as it adversely affected the handling of trucks. Notwithsta­nding this, all other truck drivers had been able to cope with the condition of the road as there had been no reported crashes at the scene prior to this crash.’’

Etuale was charged following the crash with operating a vehicle carelessly causing death. He was acquitted in court, after the district court accepted evidence he and another driver gave that the truck had an ‘‘intermitte­nt steering fault’’.

The inquest made no such findings, stating that the ‘‘loss of steering’’ Etuale experience­d was not a sudden mechanical fault but rather his front wheels having no contact with the road, allowing the steering wheel to turn with no resistance. — RNZ

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