Mobsters: Spirits called us to dig up coffin
Two senior patched Mongrel Mob members were visited by the spirit of Jason Lines – they claimed – and they had instructions for their associates.
Go to the urupa where he had been buried that day, exhume the coffin, and bring it back to their location.
The macabre events that unfolded on December 2, last year, reached a conclusion at the Rotorua District Court yesterday when three of the men charged with improperly interfering with Lines’ remains – Shannon Apirana, Ryan Lingman and Sebastian Wineera – were sentenced to community work for their roles in the attempted exhumation.
Lines was an associate of the men and had drowned on November 20, last year, after his dinghy capsized near Waihi Beach.
The police summary of facts into the bizarre incident outlined how a drinking session with the defendants, members of the Eastside gang and senior patched Mongrel Mob members set in train the events that followed.
‘‘Two of those senior patched members told the defendants that they had been visited by the deceased’s spirit,’’ the summary said.
‘‘They further informed the defendants that they were required to go to the urupa and exhume the coffin and bring it back to their location.’’
The summary said that while the men were told they had a choice in the matter, ‘‘refusing to do as instructed might result in them being assaulted’’.
The three defendants and a fourth man, Rhys Philips – who previously pleaded guilty and received 120 hours’ community work – then took three shovels and drove to the urupa.
After removing photos and flowers from the grave, they began digging. However, one man refused.
‘‘The defendant Apirana refused to dig as he was worried about the tikanga implications of what the group was doing.’’
However, what the four men were unaware of was that members of Lines’ whanau had suspected an exhumation attempt and had alerted police.
When officers arrived at about 9.30pm, the group had dug about 1 metre down.
‘‘On seeing the police, the group panicked and fled.’’
They then failed to stop and a pursuit took place, reaching speeds of 140kmh before road spikes stopped the vehicle.
Only Philips offered any explanation to the police, citing pressure from senior gang members. ‘‘He felt bad about what they were doing, but did not have much choice in the matter.’’
When sentencing the trio, Judge Tony Snell referred to a victim impact statement from the Lines’ whanau, where they expressed ‘‘the huge amount of distress you have caused the family’’.
He also referred to remarks made by Te Arawa elders, who slammed the men’s actions as a breach of ‘‘every formal protocol’’.
Snell was also critical of their decision to wait until the day of a proposed trial to alter their pleas to guilty.
He sentenced Apirana and Lingman to 180 hours’ community work, with Apirana also disqualified from driving.
Wineera, who had committed several other offences while on bail, including theft of a motor vehicle, was sentenced to 10 months’ jail.
Snell told him that thanks to time served on remand, he could expect to be released in two weeks.
Two other men involved, Tiger Ross and Maurice Ututaonga, were offered diversion for their guilty pleas at an earlier hearing.
Two youths, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had charges over their involvement dropped.