The gang member who negotiated the return of the stolen war medals says he did it to get out of prison so he could be with his "missus and kids", not for any reward.
Daniel William Crichton, 39, was released on bail from Mt Eden Prison, where he was on remand on drugs charges, as part of a deal struck for the return of the 96 medals, taken during a raid on the Army Museum at Waiouru on December 2.
Crichton is a former member of the Black Power - his facial tattoos include the gang's name on both cheeks and its insignia on his forehead - and has more recently been linked with Auckland's Headhunters, although he claims he is finished with gangs.
The father of three spoke exclusively about his role in the return of the medals to the Sunday Star-Times at the Auckland address he has been bailed to.
Crichton was in prison awaiting trial on charges of possession of methamphetamine for supply when he heard about the Waiouru burglary.
"That was bigger than Ben Hur - of course I heard it like everyone else,'' he said."I didn't have anything to do with taking them; that's bad karma.''
Crichton said he found out through his contacts who was behind the theft, but would not say how he found out.
"I just knew.''
He said other gang members also found out, and there was something of a clamour to take advantage of the information.
"Everyone saw it as an opportunity - they [gangs] are opportunists like everyone else, they will have a go. Everyone tried to grab them.''
It is understood Crichton raised the issue with his lawyer, Chris Comeskey, during a hearing at the Manukau District Court in January.
"From the start I made it clear I didn't want any reward,'' Crichton said."I approached him [Comeskey] - it had to go through him or else it wouldn't have got done - he did the rest. I knew the significance it had to the country - I didn't want to be seen to be involved [in the burglary] in any way, shape or form.''
It is understood Comeskey brokered a deal with police and the Crown to get bail for Crichton, which had previously been opposed.
"They were giving me a hard time over bail,'' Crichton said. A bail hearing was held on January 18, and Crichton was released.
He then went to see the medal thieves.
"The guys who had them would only trust me, they wouldn't trust anyone else, they are professionals.'' He said he knew them"vaguely'' from before, but they were not gang members.
"I can't say too much about them. You'd probably walk past them and not even recognise them, they don't scream `burglar' or anything. But they overstepped the mark, they didn't understand the enormity of it. They have their heads screwed on, they had an idea what they were gonna do [with the medals]. They could have ended up overseas, who knows?''
He believed the thieves trusted him because of his motives - getting bail to be with his family, rather than reward money.
"If they'd thought long and hard about it and used their brains, even done some research, I don't think they would have done it, all the drama it caused.''
Crichton wanted to take one medal as a show of good faith.
"They didn't even want to give me one ... but I made them see they didn't have any way out.''
Crichton convinced them to hand over a George Cross awarded to Ken Hudson, which he then arranged to be given to Comeskey. Through conduits, the remainder of the medals were returned last Friday.
"I get into a lot of the war stuff, I collect a little bit, I know it means a lot to people. We have a debt to pay those soldiers, they did a lot for us,'' Crichton said.
"I saw it as a chance to do something good for the country and in return get back with my missus and kids and get myself together. I won't abuse the chance either, now I've got it.''
He hoped his good deed would stand him in good stead with his outstanding drugs charges. He is due to stand trial in June.
"If they see the good thing I did, who knows I might nod to it all [plead guilty] and get it all over and done with and who knows what might happen?
"I did what no policeman could do. Every policeman in Waiouru was on it, they had no clues or leads, nothing. They would still be stumbling around in the dark now, I reckon. But I don't want no glory for it.''
If you have further information about the medals, email email@example.com
- © Fairfax NZ News
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