Cat burglar 'must have been' Manu

HAMISH CARDWELL
Last updated 06:57 07/12/2012

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A Tongan man on trial for burglary and assault has been called a "cat burglar" and a "man of the night" by the Crown prosecutor during a trial in the Blenheim District Court.

Auckland man Meketi Manu, 46, initially faced 14 charges - 12 of burglary and two of assault - for offences in Blenheim between 2008 and 2011.

One burglary charge has been dropped during the week-long trial when a witness failed to appear before Judge Denys Barry and the jury to give evidence.

In closing statements yesterday, Crown prosecutor Luke McGuinniety said the evidence in its totality pointed to Manu.

Manu had prowled the Taylor River bank late at night, had gone into homes through open windows and rifled through personal effects.

"In a relaxed and confident manner, he would enter people's bedrooms while they were sleeping and take property from right under their noses."

The two assault charges related to two burglaries when the victims woke up and tried to stop Manu from taking their possessions, Mr McGuinniety said.

DNA had been found on the waistband of a pair of jeans and a polar fleece found discarded near where Manu had been arrested, he said.

Manu's fingerprints were found on a cellphone battery in a phone found at a Monro Street property after a burglary. The phone contained texts in Tongan which on three occasions referred to "Keti", Mr McGuinniety said. "Keti" is the second half of Meketi, Manu's first name.

The police found a black suitcase when they searched a house Manu had previously told police was his home. The suitcase contained a driver's licence belonging to a relative of a woman whose home had been burgled. The case also contained a camera which held photos that one homeowner said she had taken, Mr McGuinniety said.

While no-one had positively identified Manu as the offender, that could be because the crimes happened late at night.

Witnesses had described seeing a dark-skinned Polynesian man with close-cropped hair who spoke in an Island language, he said.

"You are left with a sense of overwhelming truth that points directly to the defendant."

At the beginning of the trial, defence lawyer Bryony Millar said Manu had not committed the crimes because he had been living in Auckland at the time.

Manu said through an interpreter yesterday that he came to New Zealand from Tonga to look after his sick mother in Auckland.

He denies all the charges.

The jury, which began hearing the evidence on Monday, is expected to retire to consider its verdicts today.

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- The Marlborough Express

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