Otira publican charged with assault

Lester Rowntree bought the Otira Hotel in 2014.
Joanne Carroll

Lester Rowntree bought the Otira Hotel in 2014.

A West Coast publican has been charged with assaulting a train driver. 

Lester Rowntree owns the Otira Stagecoach Hotel in Otira on State Highway 73 near Arthur's Pass. 

He bought 21 hectares including the hotel, 18 houses, hall, fire station, beside the Otira railway a couple of years ago. 

Lester Rowntree
Ewan Sargent

Lester Rowntree

He is now defending a charge of assaulting a KiwiRail employee and has been trespassed from all KiwiRail owned land in Otira and Arthur's Pass. 

READ MORE: 

The dreams of Lester Rowntree
Offbeat New Zealand - The man who bought a town

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said KiwiRail contacted police following an alleged assault of an employee at its Otira Railway Station in September.

"The train driver involved had to seek medical assistance after the incident. Police have now charged an Otira man with assault and he will appear in court on January 30. 

"The incident occurred after the man, who was interested in leasing the KiwiRail building, alleged that the staff member was removing parts of the station. This was incorrect. The man has now been trespassed from all KiwiRail land in Otira and Arthur's Pass," she said. 

Rowntree said he would be defending the charge. 

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"He kicked me in the nuts so I gave him a couple of coathangers. You don't fight back but you do what you have to to get out of that situation. I was lucky that I was walking away, I could have been hobbling away. It's pretty simple. We'll sort it out in court. He was stealing things out of the Otira train station, that's why I went up there and we got into an argument and he kicked me so I thumped him."

"He should have been charged. I didn't do anything wrong and I'll be telling the judge that," he said. 

The judge-alone trial will be held in the Greymouth District Court on January 30. 

 

 - Stuff

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