Theft charge from miss­ing man is dropped

The Press - - News - David Clark­son and Sam Sher­wood

A charge al­leg­ing theft of a lap­top from a man who has now been miss­ing for nearly three years has been dis­missed af­ter po­lice de­cided they did not have enough ev­i­dence.

Dion Lou­vain Lawrence, ap­peared in the Christchurch District Court yes­ter­day in re­la­tion to a charge al­leg­ing theft of a lap­top be­long­ing to Richard Hink­ley, days af­ter re­port­ing him miss­ing on Fe­bru­ary 10, 2016.

The charge was dis­missed af­ter po­lice de­cided they did not have enough ev­i­dence.

The Press can now re­port that Lawrence was jailed in 2005 for three years and eight months for rob­bing a bank, as­sault­ing po­lice and re­sist­ing ar­rest.

Christchurch District Court Judge Colin Do­herty said that while Lawrence was on bail for the lat­ter of­fences, which in­cluded spit­ting in an of­fi­cer’s face, he com­mit­ted the bank rob­bery at West­pac’s Stan­more Rd branch.

Lawrence told a teller he had a con­cealed shot­gun and threat­ened to ‘‘blow his head off’’ if he did not hand over money. Lawrence got about $2500, the judge said.

When con­fronted by po­lice, Lawrence im­me­di­ately ad­mit­ted the of­fend­ing.

Lawrence also has rob­bery and as­sault con­vic­tions, and sev­eral for dis­hon­esty and driv­in­gre­lated of­fend­ing.

He had been di­ag­nosed with a se­ri­ous psy­chi­atric ill­ness and told the Pro­ba­tion Ser­vice the rob­bery was a ‘‘knee-jerk re­ac­tion’’ to a re­la­tion­ship break-up, the judge said.

It was Lawrence’s third rob­bery in 15 years and the sec­ond within five years.

Lawrence told The Press in Jan­uary that po­lice searched his home shortly be­fore Christ­mas

2017. He said po­lice took him to a po­lice sta­tion and told him they be­lieved he had mur­dered his neigh­bour. He said po­lice had also dug up his gar­den.

‘‘I’ve got no idea what hap­pened. [Hink­ley] could’ve left the coun­try for all I know.’’

‘‘[Po­lice] think I had some big fall­ing out with him, but I didn’t re­ally.

‘‘Other peo­ple cer­tainly did; I don’t know why they aren’t in­ves­ti­gat­ing them.’’

‘‘I re­ported him miss­ing, I don’t know if that has some­thing to do with it.

‘‘I don’t know been talk­ing.’’

Lawrence de­clined fur­ther yes­ter­day.

Po­lice said in Jan­uary if peo­ple have to com­ment that they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of foul play or self harm be­ing in­volved in Hink­ley’s dis­ap­pear­ance, but were keep­ing an open mind about what had hap­pened to him.

The bur­glary charge against Lawrence was with­drawn on May 22 this year, and re­placed with a charge al­leg­ing theft of the lap­top, worth be­tween $500 and $1000.

Lawrence de­nied the charge and a judge-alone trial was set for the Christchurch District Court yes­ter­day, but po­lice did not want the hear­ing to go ahead.

De­fence coun­sel Don­ald Matthews said po­lice wanted to with­draw the charge – which would al­low it to be laid again – but he asked the judge to dis­miss it.

The po­lice pros­e­cu­tor told Judge Stephen O’Driscoll that the com­plainant had been miss­ing since the al­leged in­ci­dent hap­pened.

There had been a ‘‘sub­stan­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion’’ to find him, but he had not been lo­cated.

Po­lice had be­lieved there was cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence to prove the theft case, but there wasn’t.

They wanted the judge to al­low the charge to be with­drawn be­cause it meant there would be a strong case to an­swer if Hink­ley was to ‘‘resur­face’’. How­ever, with­out his pres­ence and ev­i­dence as a wit­ness there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to pur­sue the charge.

Judge O’Driscoll in­di­cated the mat­ter had gone too far for a with­drawal.

‘‘I don’t think it’s fair to have the pos­si­bil­ity of a charge hang­ing over his head and not able to pro­ceed. Be­cause you are of­fer­ing no ev­i­dence, the charge is dis­missed.’’

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion about Hink­ley’s dis­ap­pear­ance is asked to con­tact Christchurch po­lice on 03 363 7400 or can call Crimestop­pers anony­mously on 0800 555 111.

Dion Lou­vain Lawrence

Richard Hink­ley

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