Sex offender jumps bail, skips country

Last updated 05:00 05/07/2012

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A convicted child molester facing up to five years in prison for attacks on two young girls has managed to obtain a bogus passport and skip the country ahead of sentencing.

And he appears to have left his wife facing the rap for allegedly helping him get it.

Interpol has been called in to track down Christopher Ian Crause, 47, of Hamilton, who was found guilty at trial of four counts of sexual connection with an underage girl, four of doing indecent acts with an underage girl and two of supplying cannabis to a person under 18, in Hamilton District Court in March.

He was released on bail to be sentenced on June 15 but did not turn up, with police confirming to the Times this week they suspected Crause had fled to his former home of South Africa and a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Police were liaising with Interpol to try to have him extradited.

Police believe Crause left the country on a fake New Zealand passport in the name of "Daniel Finnerty" and have charged his wife, Brigitte Daniele Crause, with helping him get it.

The 51-year-old, who came to New Zealand with her husband in 1997, is accused of making a written statement knowing it to be false and conspiring to defeat the course of justice.

The family flew from Auckland to Brisbane on May 23 and on June 3 Brigitte and the children returned home, without Crause.

She told the Times they had "a bit of an argument" and he disappeared.

She had not heard from him since.

"I don't know where he is," Mrs Crause said. "What else can I say, I'm pretty f....d off."

After appearing in Hamilton District Court on Friday she was remanded without plea and said she was unsure whether she would defend the charges.

Since Crause's trial she said the family had been drained, emotionally and financially, to the stage where it looked like they would have to sell their Western Heights home.

The original offending came in January 2009 when Crause and his wife trawled the NZ Dating website, looking for swingers who wanted to meet up for sex and, after meeting one couple, Crause was introduced to their 15-year-old daughter, shortly afterwards meeting her 14-year-old school friend.

The court heard from the victims how he lavished them with gifts, including cannabis, and ultimately engaged in sexual conduct with the girls.

Some of the offending occurred after one of the teens fell out with her parents and moved in with Crause and his family.

The Waikato Times understands he is facing a sentence of about five years imprisonment when he is finally brought before a judge.

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Mrs Crause said she had no contacts for her husband's family in South Africa, but indicated he had relatives in Australia, too, and said he may have sought refuge with them.

Whether he was found or not, she was sceptical about the future of their relationship and she did not see his presence as necessary to clear her name.

While the Internal Affairs Department would not comment on an active case, spokesman Michael Mead said new technology, including a photo-matching programme, had made passport fraud increasingly difficult.

In 2011, only five cases out of about 500,000 were detected as fraudulent, which he put down to the new measures deterring potential offenders.

By April 2015, the last non-microchipped passport will expire, something the department sees as a significant landmark in border security.

- Waikato Times

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