Tongan jailed for burglaries

A burglar who crept into people's bedrooms and robbed them while they slept has been sent to prison for five years.

Maketi Manu, 46, was sentenced in the Blenheim District Court yesterday after being found guilty of five charges of burglary and two assaults at a trial in Blenheim last week.

Manu's victims included a 75-year-old woman living alone and two families with young children, Judge Denys Barry said.

The crime spree lasted between November 2008 and March 2009, beginning just a month after he arrived from Tonga.

In one case, Manu was disturbed after stopping to make sandwiches during a burglary and punched a man in the face while escaping.

In another, a man woke to find Manu crouching in his bedroom growling and when he confronted Manu, the burglar had punched him in the face, Judge Barry said.

The 75-year-old woman also woke up while Manu was in her bedroom, but pretended to be asleep until he left, he said.

The burglaries had a serious effect on the victims, including two children aged 8 and 4 at the time of the burglaries, who were still receiving counselling, he said.

"Five families were left feeling violated and still feel insecure in their homes."

The victims had spent extra money on security for their homes and had lost items, including cameras and family photos, but reparation was not possible, he said.

At the start of the sentencing hearing, crown prosecutor Sophie O'Donoghue sought leave to include Manu's criminal history from Tonga, but Judge Barry denied the request when Manu was unable to confirm that all the convictions were his.

Ms O'Donoghue said the potential for confrontation and danger was obvious in Manu's offending and it was made more serious by the way he had gone into people's homes.

Defence lawyer Bryony Millar said Manu wanted to apologise to his victims and to thank the court for its efforts dealing with his case. Manu had been in custody for 22 months before his trial, she said.

Judge Barry said the burglaries showed a repeated pattern of offending and it was lucky the assaults were not more serious and did not involve a weapon. A belated apology from Manu made no difference to his sentencing.

The Marlborough Express