Love denies robbing tourists

Last updated 06:59 14/12/2012

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A former Blenheim man has denied robbing two tourists of $300, saying he only conned them after they gave him the money to buy drugs.

Jamie Ngatata Love, 36, was on trial yesterday in the Blenheim District Court after denying a charge of robbing the couple on January 2. The jury is expected to give a decision today in the case where Love admits taking the money from the pair, but denies behaving threateningly and demanding it.

Defence lawyer Bryony Millar said a charge of robbery meant there had to be violence or a threat of violence involved.

Giving evidence yesterday the male victim said they got chatting to Love at The Warehouse while buying a camera and getting out cash for a three-week camping trip.

They agreed to give Love a ride home and he directed them to Meehan St in Blenheim, the man said.

The female victim said Love had been "very pleasant" at first, but after getting out of the car he had leaned in threateningly and demanded they hand over their wallets. The frightened pair gave him $300, which was all the cash they had for their trip.

Asked why they waited 10 days before going to police, both said they had been in shock and had cut their trip short to report the crime. Both denied ever using drugs or discussing drugs with Love.

Giving evidence in his own defence Love said he offered to sell the pair cannabis to smoke at a Shapeshifter concert in Nelson that night, but walked off with their money, going to his cousin's house for an hour "while the heat died down".

He insisted the pair arranged to buy drugs and lied about him demanding the money, but agreed he could be considered physically threatening as he was 185cm tall and "morbidly obese" at 144kg.

Constable Nicholas Cooke, of Blenheim, gave evidence that Love was convicted of similar crimes in 2005 and 2009.

In 2005, Love approached a 17-year-old in a car in Christchurch and asked for a ride home before getting into the car to try and steal the man's wallet, Mr Cook said.

In 2008, Love approached two Korean students in a car in Blenheim and asked to use a lighter before demanding $300 cash and assaulting them while trying to steal their laptops, he said.

Under cross-examination Love said he was high on solvents during the first robbery and had stopped taking his bi-polar medication before the second offence.

Summing up, Crown prosecutor Sophie O'Donoghue told the jury Love had made up his story as a convenient excuse, while Mrs Millar said the victims made up their story because they were embarrassed at being ripped off.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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