A Tongan man on trial for burglary and assault went into his victims' rooms to steal possessions as they were sleeping, Blenheim District Court was told yesterday.
Meketi Manu, 46, who lives in Auckland, denied all 12 charges of burglary and two of assault, which date from 2008 to 2011, on his first day of a trial before Judge Denys Barry.
Crown prosecutor Luke McGuinniety said the burglaries had some significant hallmarks - they happened late at night and in private homes in Blenheim.
Manu would walk to the homes, break in through a door or window, steal small items that could be easily carried away, including cash and electronic goods, and escape along the riverbank.
He had been "rifling through private property" while his victims were in bed.
"He would go into the rooms of victims and steal things right from their very bedside tables," Mr McGuinniety said.
The two assault charges related to two burglaries when victims woke up and tried to stop Manu from taking their possessions.
"Mr Manu went in, late at night, to these people's homes.
"He didn't have authority, he didn't have permission," Mr McGuinniety said.
Defence lawyer Bryony Millar opened by saying Manu was not the person who had committed the crimes because he was living in Auckland at the time.
"Mr Manu is not the person who committed these burglaries and he's not the person who committed these assaults."
She asked the jury to carefully consider five things before reaching their final verdict: witnesses' descriptions of offender; time of offence and entry; items taken; the period of time during which offences had occurred; and forensic evidence, which was only one way of ascertaining guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
One witness, whose home in McLauchlan St was burgled in November 2008, said she woke up to sounds of footsteps in the kitchen/living area early one morning.
Thinking it was her two sons returning home, she reached over to her bedside table to check the time on her mobile and realised the cordless phone was no longer there.
She got out of bed and walked into the kitchen, where the lights were on, before going into the sitting room.
She saw a man standing beside the fireplace with one hand on the mantlepiece. The man turned around briefly before running out the front door.
She described him as tall, dark, of medium build, in his late 20s or early 30s, with no facial hair and wearing a beanie.
Other property missing from the house included a digital camera left on the mantlepiece, about $40 from her purse, and her husband's watch, which had been on his bedside table.
The intruder had entered through the front door, which she had left unlocked, the witness said.
Her digital camera had been returned after she identified photos stored on the picture card at the Blenheim police station.
The trial is expected to continue all week.
- The Marlborough Express
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