Rugby team chases down, blows whistle on thieves

KAROLINE TUCKEY
Last updated 11:08 21/08/2014

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A rugby team whose gear was nicked while training tracked the culprits to a house in Levin, resulting in police uncovering a large stash of items thought to have been stolen.

Levin community Constable Graeme Jarvis said police believed two men broke into cars parked at the Levin Cosmopolitan Club and Playford Park and its changing rooms about 8pm on Thursday, August 14. Wallets, cellphones and keys were stolen, as well as a van parked at Playford Park.

The Horowhenua-Kapiti Heartland championship team was training, and its players were among the victims whose belongings were stolen, he said.

"When the thefts were discovered, as well as advising police, rugby team members began making their own inquiries to locate the culprits," Jarvis said. A GPS tracking app was used by a team member to find the location of one of the stolen mobile phones, which showed it was at a residential property in Levin.

Jarvis said the team discovered the thefts about 8.30pm, and within 10 minutes had called police to report the van had been found.

"They managed to [keep] those people there until the police arrived," he said, though was not able to say how.

Police responded and found the van, a car police were also looking for, and a "large amount of stolen property" stashed in the two vehicles.

Otaki man Damon Carroll, 26, and Palmerston North man Christopher Michael Joseph Chapman, 27, were arrested in connection to the thefts.

"One of the offenders [Chapman] gave false details, but was found to be wanted on several warrants, and had featured on [television programme] Police Ten 7 just last week," Jarvis said.

Chapman has had a warrant out for his arrest since April, when he failed to appear in court.

Since then, he has allegedly driven away in two vehicles from two separate Palmerston North car dealers, after taking them for a "test drive", and failing to bring them back.

A blue 2009 Ford Falcon XR6T ute has not yet been recovered.

He was also implicated in the same kind of offence involving a flat-deck trailer from Palmerston North's Hireways.

Both men appeared in the Palmerston North District Court on Saturday.

Carroll was charged with car conversion, while Chapman faces charges including burglary, unlawfully taking a motor vehicle, car conversion, and fraud.

Chapman was remanded in custody, and both men will reappear in court next month. Jarvis said the team had been very "enthusiastic" in tracking down the men, but warned against this.

"Make a complaint, but don't get involved, don't try to catch a burglar, your life is more important," he said.

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"We wouldn't recommend individuals go off and do that, and take the law into their own hands, but it was lucky they had the weight of numbers on their side this time," Jarvis said.

Horowhenua-Kapiti rugby players and officials declined to comment.

- Manawatu Standard

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