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Measles threat delays trial

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 13:25 19/08/2014

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A measles scare delayed the trial this morning of a man alleged to have gone on a "spree" of robbing tourists at gunpoint.

One of the jurors in the trial in the High Court in Auckland of John Koteka, 34, called in sick today and was being assessed for measles by a court doctor this afternoon.

Justice Mary Peters said it was not yet known if the man had measles or not but she gave the rest of the jury the option of whether they wanted to proceed. The 11 remaining jurors unanimously decided to continue.

Koteka is charged with 12 offences over a four-month period in 2012 and 2013.

Crown prosecutor Warren Cathcart said Koteka went on a "crime spree" on February 17, 2013, targeting people of Asian descent for robbery.

Koteka approached a tour-bus operator with a firearm and demanded money near the Wintergardens in the Auckland Domain at 4pm.

He fled in a blue Holden and 52 minutes later the second offence occurred.

A man walking up the road to the Mt Eden summit would testify that a blue Holden pulled up next to him and a man pointed a firearm out the window and demanded money.

The walker would say the man took his mobile phone, $160 cash and his hotel key card.

The mobile phone was later discovered in the car of a female friend of Koteka's, Cathcart said.

Koteka continued up to the summit of Mt Eden where he robbed members of a tour group of their bags at gunpoint.

Cathcart said Koteka grabbed one woman's bag, but the woman rushed at him and tried to get the bag back.

Two members of the tour group moved toward Koteka and to "discourage" them, Koteka fired five shots into the ground, Cathcart said.

Two of the men tried to stop him leaving by gripping his steering wheel, but they were dragged for a few metres and then fell from the car.

One of the men broke his finger. The blue Holden was discovered on fire a few days later in Onehunga, about 1 kilometre away from where Koteka was staying.

Cathcart said the issue would be whether it was Koteka who committed the offences.

The Crown had an independent witness from the Mt Eden summit who had picked Koteka out of a photo montage and the tour-bus driver had identified the car he was in.

Cathcart said in court that Koteka had previously been convicted of two counts of aggravated robbery in March 2010.

He and another man burst into a house in Papatoetoe brandishing a gun and robbed the occupants of handbags and cash.

They repeated the home invasion and robbery an hour later, robbing another household of handbags and cash.

Police inquiries found that the Holden had been stolen from an Avis rental card yard on February 5 last year, Cathcart said.

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CCTV footage showed the car being driven quickly past the yard's barrier arm when another driver left.

Footage would be shown to the jury of two other Holdens being stolen from the same yard in the same manner, two weeks apart in November 2012.

Koteka's fingerprints were found on those stolen cars, Cathcart said.

Defence lawyer Peter Kaye agreed with the Crown that identification would be the main issue in the case.

The trial is set down for two weeks.

- Stuff

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