Teen a veteran of crime

Just three months after being sent home to New Zealand, a "teenage thug" targeted three Palmerston North supermarkets in holiday robberies.

Rodriga Magele, 18, of Mangere, Auckland, was deported from Australia in September after serving a period in custody for violent crime, including the robbery of a supermarket and a daring escape from a youth justice facility.

Now he has admitted two charges of aggravated robbery for entering the Broadway Ave, Palmerston North, Countdown on December 23 and the Feilding store on December 27.

He also pleaded guilty to a charge of assault with intent to rob after entering the Kelvin Grove Countdown on December 23 and, according to court documents, attempting to rob a security guard with a knife.

In the Palmerston North District Court yesterday, Judge Gerard Lynch remanded Magele in custody until sentencing in Auckland in May.

The guilty pleas mean the Manawatu Standard can reveal Magele's extensive criminal history in Australia, which saw him deported to New Zealand in September.

Officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Sergeant Ashley Gurney, said it is believed Magele had five convictions in Australia - three for armed robbery, one for unlawful assault and one for escaping a youth detention centre. It is also believed he served 27 months behind bars.

"At the conclusion of his sentence he was put on a plane, he was met at Auckland airport and spoken to there by New Zealand police, who were aware of his activities in Australia, and then released here into the community," Mr Gurney said.

Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun reported last month that Magele caused "chaos" in the Victorian capital.

"[He] committed a frightening trail of armed robberies in Melbourne and was part of a gang that escaped a youth prison at knifepoint," it reported.

It said he had chalked up "dozens" of convictions for violent crime and terrorised "dozens of victims" with knives and hammers during hold-ups on bottle stores, supermarkets and pharmacies.

"During one period in custody, Magele was among six inmates who escaped from Parkville's Youth Justice Centre. A guard was assaulted and menaced with a knife during the breakout.

"They were soon caught but only after more alleged robberies," the Herald Sun said.

An early report about the May 2010 breakout of the youth justice centre said Magele was one of six young men aged between 15 and 17 involved.

At the time Victoria Police Association secretary Greg Davies told media the escape highlighted the inadequacies of the Australian justice system.

"It highlights that people with a propensity for violence or who commit serious offences, regardless of age, should be dealt with by the full force of the law and not be in a position where they can walk away."

Magele's co-accused Jason Graham Hooper, 22, of Palmerston North, also faces two charges of aggravated robbery and one of assault with intent to rob for the Countdown heists. He is in custody and has yet to enter pleas, with his next court appearance expected to be early next week.

Manawatu Standard