After three months, mechanic fixes van in three days flat

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Just three days after her mechanical misadventure featured in Mountain Scene, Julia Lonnerheden had her repaired van dropped off by Queenstown mobile mechanic Karl Abbott.

The Nissan was returned to Lonnerheden’s flat about midday last Sunday, along with a letter: “They [said they] wanted me to have the van back as soon as possible…because they’ve been threatened by Mountain Scene – which I found quite funny.”

Abbott didn’t charge her a cent.

Her long wait began on September 30 last year when she had Abbott take her van away for repairs to the starter motor and a warrant.

Days later the Nissan was stripped of wheels, headlights, grill and headrests, while fabric was cut from seats.

Abbott had it parked at the Gorge Road “deviation carpark” crime hotspot near his Industrial Place base.

Abbott’s partner Rhonda Tomlin visited Lonnerheden to apologise, promising to replace the stolen parts free of charge. Despite Abbott being chased up every two or three weeks, nothing happened – until now.

“I don’t think anything would have happened [without last week’s story] so it’s really good, thank you very much,” Lonnerheden adds.

The saga also raises Abbott’s chequered past again.

Twice jailed for car maintenance swindles in Christchurch in 2004-05, Abbott operated out of his Fernhill backyard in 2007 until Mountain Scene reported a complaint.

Contacted again last Friday over the Nissan, Abbott said he was putting the van back together “as we speak”.
Unlike his abusive first interview last week – when Abbott told Mountain Scene to “be f*****g careful because I’m getting f****d off” – he was now prepared to “talk reasonably because doing my nana doesn’t make any difference. You’re pretty thick-skinned”.

Mountain Scene asked Abbott about allegedly offering money to Lonnerheden’s boyfriend Kelly Pia to retract what they’d said for last week’s story. Pia’s two flatmates were home at the time – one heard $2000 mentioned.

Abbott initially denied offering hush money but, told he’d been overheard by flatmates, said: “What I said to him was, ‘Look, if you guys are financially in the crap we would rather give you some money towards it. Not quite a bribe.”

Abbott wouldn’t talk yesterday about the van’s return – rather, he wasn’t allowed to.

Partner Tomlin says: “He’s under fairly strict instructions from me not to talk to you guys.”

So what’s prompted the happy ending with the van’s return?

“Threats from you guys was the, uh…did Julia say it still doesn’t have the mag wheels on that we couldn’t get and the headrests we couldn’t get and we were trying to get?”

Tomlin says she and Abbott worked late on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

“Quite simply, I said [to Abbott] we need to get the van back to as good as what we possibly could with what we had. We already had the parts that are on it so we put them on and we bought the wheel covers.”

She and Abbott are “absolutely determined” that the mobile mechanic will eventually become a respected local businessman.

Has Abbott found God? “No, Karl found me.”