Remorseless thief targeted tourists

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A serial thief has been convicted for his part in nicking more than $36,000 of property from tourists.

Merrick Richard Cooper, 34, admitted nine charges relating to stealing from vehicles.

Passports, computers, jewellery and other property were swiped from tourists in Queenstown, Arrowtown, Gibbston, Wanaka and Tekapo in June last year.

Kaiapoi builder Cooper, who has 26 previous convictions for similar offending dating back 17 years, was jointly charged with others.

Judge Mark Callaghan, at Queenstown District Court on Monday, says most of the thefts were from rental vehicles.

A hole was punched in the side panel of the drivers’ doors and a screwdriver, or similar, used to unlock the vehicles.

A pre-sentence report notes Cooper has “no remorse” for his offending and says he has a high-risk of reoffending.

It recommends a sentence of imprisonment.

But Callaghan stopped short of jailing Cooper, instead sentencing him to 10 months’ home detention to be served in Christchurch. Callaghan says that’s a “very difficult sentence to carry out for any person”, but warns him if he breaches it, the balance will be served in prison.

He was also ordered to pay $1000 emotional harm reparation to two British tourists.

While some of the property was recovered after Cooper and the others charged were spoken to by police on June 15, it was “impossible” for officers to obtain details of reparation and/or compensation owed as the victims had since returned to their home countries.

Only one victim impact statement had been obtained – that was from British tourists who had $3000 of property stolen, of which about $1000 worth had not been recovered.

Callaghan says the incident was “devastating” for them and they had “never had to put up with anything like this before”.

While Cooper was not driving the vehicle used to commit the offences, because a vehicle was used he was also disqualified from driving for six months.

Special post-home detention conditions to complete any recommended intervention for alcohol and drug use and any departmental programme would extend for six months after the sentence end date.

The others charged are at various stages of the court process.

Other convictions:

Matthew Ben Goulouh, 34, of Queenstown, assaulted Jonathan May, December 8, at Queenstown. He also breached his release conditions, November 11 and 18, at Queenstown. On all, he is sentenced to two months’ and one week imprisonment.

Timothy Kevin Fox, 36, of Arrowtown, cultivated cannabis in Arrowtown, arrested December 14. He was fined $350.

Ryan Alan Lamond, 21, of Frankton, assaulted Ashton Corbett at Cromwell Races on November 27, punching him once in the face. He was fined $350 and ordered to pay $60 emotional harm reparation.

Sebastien Jacky Coutand, 27, chef, of France, drove while disqualified, Frankton Road, Queenstown, December 21. Fined $750 and banned for an additional eight months from April.