Fears of horse-rustling gang in the Wakatipu

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Queenstown’s equestrian com­­m­unity fears a national horse rustling gang is targeting the Wakatipu.

Horse owners and farmers have alerted police after repeated sightings of two “dodgy” men taking photos of horses from a ute at night.

“It is very strange activity in the middle of the night,” Wakatipu Riding Club secretary Kerry Brackstone says.

“It’s not just people sightseeing or taking landscape photos. This is happening nationwide, horses are being stolen. It could be the group that goes around and targets horses, not just a one-off.

“Some of the horses are quite valuable. They could sell them on or breed good quality animals.”

The men were seen taking photos of horses on McDonnell Road in Arrowtown on Monday, and drove off when approached. They were also spotted at 4am on Sunday on Malaghans Road.

Victims on the New Zealand National Register of Stolen Horses Facebook page say the same activity happened before their horses were stolen.

Queenstown police want to speak to the occupants of the white double cab Ford Courier with canopy.

Senior constable Chris Blackford says: “It could be perfectly innocent but we’d like the driver/occupant to come forward and explain what they’re doing.”

Brackstone says local riders have put locks and chains on their gates.

“But apparently the thieves just cut the fences. You can’t really stop them if they’re determined. A lot of people have their horses in a paddock on a farm, not where they live, so they can’t be looked out for easily.”

Phone scam warning

Police are warning Queenstowners about phone scammers after eight reports in two weeks.

One resident contacted police after a scammer phoned to say he was owed more than $3000 after overpaying tax on investments.

Others say they’ve been told they’re due a tax rebate from IRD but they must deposit $295 into a Post Office account to facilitate the transaction.

“They often have the details about the person they’re calling, names and addresses,” Blackford says.

“People should realise when they pick the phone up and hear a static noise just for a couple of seconds before the caller speaks it’s probably off-shore, usually India or the Philippines it seems.”

Alleged false complaint

An Englishwoman living in Queenstown has been arrested after allegedly making a false complaint.

The woman allegedly told police a group of men had stolen her jacket and iPhone on Cow Lane on April 29.

“After enquiries by police, we found that story to be fabricated,” alleges Blackford.

“We take false complaints seriously because they tie up resources.”

The woman, 21, was charged with making a false complaint.

Reduced sentence in ‘kidnap case’ sees Coupe free from custody

One of the men involved in the brutal Arrowtown kidnapping case has had his prison term reduced.

Samuel Gordon Coupe, 29, was sentenced to two years and nine months inside for his part in the 2011 attack on Jason Maynard.

Maynard was beaten and kidnapped by a gang, wearing balaclavas and wielding machetes, after a drug deal gone wrong.

Coupe, who threw the first punch, pleaded guilty to aggravated wounding with intent to commit theft by violent means, rendering Maynard incapable of resistance and assaulting a female, on November 26 that year.

But Coupe’s Invercargill lawyer Fiona Guy-Kidd successfully appealed against the conviction on the grounds that, although he’d not contributed money to the drug deal, he believed his friends were lawfully entitled to get their money back.

They’d paid $740 for a bag of white powder believing it to be illegal drugs. On receiving the bag, they concluded it was flour mixed with sugar.

Justice Christian Whata, in his written ruling, agreed Coupe had a claim of right and quashed his original sentence

“Putting aside for one moment the legality of a drug deal, the underlying transaction was very simple: a contract for the sale of goods and where the goods were not fit for purpose the purchasers wanted their money back.”

A lower substitute sentence of 23 months – for wounding with intent to injure – was imposed on the Invercargill man, resulting in Coupe’s immediate release from custody.