Gang to get killer's Mob patch back

A top cop's gentleman's agreement with Porirua gang leaders means a convicted killer's Mongrel Mob gang patch will be returned to them, after the Crown asked for it to be destroyed.

The Crown was prompted by Porirua police to ask the trial judge for its destruction, but withdrew the application yesterday after police told them about an earlier deal to return it.

Gang-busting Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws agreed police should honour their agreement but said the patch would now be used as an "evil" recruiting tool by the gang.

"The police had to do what they had to do to get the evidence. The gang patch is a representation that somebody has done something bad, something criminal, something antisocial to gain it. Gangs use their patches and their colours as an advertisement to create the next generation of criminals."

The patch had been ripped off Charlie Karaka's back by a Crips gang member on December 7.

Early the next morning, Karaka stabbed IHC caregiver Fitzgerald Risati in a tragic case of mistaken identity. On Friday, he was sentenced to life in jail for the murder.

The patch was returned to the gang in the days after Mr Risati's murder in an agreement between Crips and Mongrel Mob leaders to prevent further violence.

Crown lawyer Grant Burston said in his letter to the judge yesterday he had received information from police that "the patch was then voluntarily handed to police with the understanding they would not seek its destruction".

Mr Burston was not told that on Friday before he asked the judge to consider allowing its destruction.

Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Oxnam said he was behind the Crown's application to have the patch destroyed but was later "reminded of the previous agreement" by one of his staff.

""It's important that we're straight up and down with everybody. They [the Mongrel Mob] would just expect us to do the right thing. We do have to have a working relationship with these guys."

Mr Oxnam said he and his staff had asked Porirua Mongrel Mob leaders for the patch because they had needed it as evidence at the trial "with the agreement that it would be returned to them".

Mr Laws whose city was waiting for final approval of its bylaw to ban gang patches in public places said his sympathy lay with the Risati family.

"They're going through exactly what our community went through with the death of Jhia Te Tua. I have very little doubt that the patch will become talismanic and almost a spur ... for gangs to commit worse crime."

The patch will be returned to the Mongrel Mob when a 28-day appeal period runs out next month.

- By MATT CALMAN, Dominion Post