The 69-year-old sits in his bedroom, where the horrific attack took place. Photo / Karina Cooper
A Kaipara pensioner living on his own feared he was going to be set alight during a brutal home invasion he says had a completely “misguided” motive.
The 69-year-old, who did not want to be named, was attacked by a trio of armed men while dozing in bed at his home in Aratapu in the early hours of July 2.
While the bruises on his skin have yellowed and the cuts on his arms have started to heal, the memories of the attack are still raw.
He hoped by sharing his ordeal, someone would come forward with information to help catch the perpetrators so they wouldn’t strike again.
“I’d been reading until about midnight, and had started to fall asleep when I heard footsteps.”
In a sleepy daze, the man thought it was perhaps his son, who was due to be visiting.
“Then I thought, ‘Hold on, I was only talking to him a few hours ago and he’s in Queenstown’.”
Before he was able to think further about who the footsteps belonged to, his bedroom light switched on and three young strangers rushed in.
The man said the trio stood at the end of his bed while one of the men pointed a shotgun toward him.
“My instant thought was, ‘This is like a skit, like a comedy joke’.”
As he tried to sit up, the gunman jumped onto the bed.
“He stomped his boot on my head. His other boot had my arm pinned on the bed… I think the only reason my head wasn’t cracked was that I was cushioned by the mattress.”
The man said the other attackers then took hold of his feet and remaining free arm.
“I just kept fighting and fighting, and they just kept saying, ‘Where’s the $40,000?′
“Now this is a figure that has never in my whole life had any point of relevance or significance.”
The man said the attackers also shouted about a blue car.
He had recently restored a blue Toyota Camry sedan, and had only “driven it a dozen times”. He said he became the owner of the car after it was abandoned.
“They just kept asking over and over. This joker was stomping on my face. I tried to get my head loose.”
The sole of the boot was the last thing he saw before the duvet was pulled over his head.
“It’s such a whole mix of emotions – trying to answer their questions, knowing that they’re totally misguided, and you’re getting your head stomped.”
The man said at one stage he felt his leg being whacked. He put his hand down to stop it and ended up grabbing the head of a hammer. As he did so, his hand was slashed with a knife. Six stitches were later needed to close the cut.
“I tried to explain. I said, ‘Look, my bank statements are over on the table, go and have a look. My money’s in the bank’. I said, ‘You can take my cashflow cards, there’s a few hundred dollars in my wallet, you can take that’.”
Which they did – drawing out almost $5000 from ATMs in Dargaville later that afternoon and on Monday morning.
The man told his attackers the Toyota was parked in a nearby shed with the keys inside but they would need to rehook the battery.
“I wanted them to leave me because I didn’t know if was going to get worse,” he said.
The man listened as the trio ransacked his small cabin.
He said they eventually came back into the bedroom and yanked him off the bed. He lay pressed between its frame and a dresser, its wooden corner knocking his breath from him as it dug into his ribs.
A short while later, the man heard the car start and get louder as it neared the cabin.
“Next thing, they started to tie me up with these pissy little cable ties… they couldn’t hold a sparrow from flying out of its nest.”
Still, the man promised to keep his eyes shut as they tied his hands together and used an extension cord to bind his legs. Although he caught a glimpse of an attacker flicking a cigarette lighter.
“I actually thought…” The man stopped mid-sentence, choking back tears. “I thought they were going to pour petrol on me and burn me.”
The attackers then fled in his car, he said.
He lay still, the light still on, worried they were watching him.
When he felt certain they had gone, he untied himself from the “hatchet job” they had done and then climbed out his narrow bedroom window.
He ran as fast as he could to a neighbour’s place to call the police.
“It wasn’t random. They knew about the blue car, and somehow or rather, someone’s got this figure of $40,000 in their head. The money aspect is completely misguided, but the car wasn’t.”
Detective Sergeant Jonathan Tier confirmed Dargaville CIB are investigating the aggravated robbery.
He said the blue sedan, with the registration EQR544, is still outstanding.
“Our investigation is continuing into this matter, including establishing the circumstances behind what has occurred. However, at this stage, we believe this is an isolated incident.”
Anyone with information can contact police on 105 and quote file number 230702/8180, or anonymously via Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.
Karina Cooper is deputy news director and covers breaking and general news for the Advocate. She also has a special interest in investigating what is behind the headlines and getting to the heart of a story.