'Cat burglar' remanded in custody

A Tongan man labelled a cat burglar by a Crown prosecutor was convicted on two charges of aggravated assault and five charges of burglary by a jury in the Blenheim District Court on Friday.

Auckland man Meketi Manu, 46, was found not guilty of six other counts of burglary. An additional burglary charge was dropped during the week-long trial when a witness failed to appear before Judge Denys Barry to give evidence.

Crown prosecutor Luke McGuinniety said that between 2008 and 2011, Manu prowled the Taylor River bank looking for open windows. He would rifle through people's belongings, often taking items such as cellphones, cameras and wallets from the bedrooms of sleeping victims, he said.

"In a relaxed and confident manner, he would enter people's bedrooms . . . 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.

Manu's DNA had been found on the waistband of a pair of jeans and a polar fleece found discarded near a burgled property, he said.

His fingerprints were found on a cellphone battery in a phone found at a Monro St property after a burglary.

The phone contained texts in Tongan that 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 that held photos that one homeowner said she had taken, Mr McGuinniety said.

Defence lawyer Bryony Millar said Manu denied all the charges as he was living in Auckland at the time of the offences.

She said the Crown case consisted of theories and speculation and there were no witness able to positively identify Manu as the burglar.

The Crown had made much of a supposed pattern of offending by Manu but it had failed to provide evidence that burglaries near the riverbank area were uncommon, she said. It had not proved when fingerprints found on a cellphone battery, and a palm print found on a windowsill after a burglary, got there.

She said the Crown was looking for patterns and had ignored facts that did not fit that pattern.

Manu was remanded in custody until Thursday for sentencing.

The Marlborough Express