Home invasion victims determined to stay

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 10/09/2012
HOME INVASION: Police at the Cotters’ Wainuiomata home after the attack by three men armed with baseball bats.
DIEGO OPATOWSKI/Fairfax NZ
HOME INVASION: Police at the Cotters’ Wainuiomata home after the attack by three men armed with baseball bats.

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Marie Cotter is too afraid to sleep in her own bedroom or turn off the lights at night.

Her husband Trevor is just thankful to be alive.

But the Wainuiomata pensioners are determined not to be driven out of town by the baseball bat-wielding "low-lifes" who broke into their home, hog-tied Mrs Cotter, and stole their life savings.

Speaking for the first time yesterday, Mr Cotter, 74, said that the invasion of his Hine Rd home two weeks ago was terrifying.

He suspected the incident was tied to threatening phone calls that the couple received in the weeks leading up to the attack, and have continued since.

"We had about eight or 10 calls before it happened. They more or less said, ‘Watch yourself, watch your back'. That was about it."

The couple have had a few more calls since, mostly just people hanging up, he said.

"We thought about [moving] and talked about it just after it happened.

"But Marie said, ‘We've been here 45 years and I'm not going to be frightened off by these low-lifes'."

The home invasion happened about 4.30am on August 28.

Mr Cotter heard noises but thought it was just his wife getting up early to do some ironing.

"Next minute, a guy was standing over me with a baseball bat and a mask on and he said, ‘Don't move, don't yell out', and then two other guys went down to the other bedroom and jumped on top of my wife," he said.

"Then I heard a scream and . . . she was manhandled up the hallway into my room. They bound my hands and tied Marie's hands to her feet. Because she was talking, they gagged her as well.

"They went easy on me but they roughed Marie up a bit. She got a cut lip out of it and a sore nose from where they punched her in the face."

The robbers left 30 minutes later after locking the Cotters inside their home.

Mrs Cotter had persuaded them not to tie her husband's leg because of his recent knee surgery, so he was able to get a knife to cut their bindings and call police.

At least $23,000 was stolen - the couple's life savings, Mr Cotter said.

"It was the money that we had saved to pay for our funerals, which I thought were going to be [a bit] sooner because I didn't think I was going to survive."

They also had jewellery taken, including Mrs Cotter's engagement ring and the wedding bands of both their mothers. The only money they now have is about $300 a week from superannuation and whatever Mrs Cotter earns from selling homemade jams and pickles at markets each weekend.

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"How we're going to pay all the bills this month, I don't know," Mr Cotter said.

Mrs Cotter has been sleeping in the lounge with the lights on since the attack.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Thornton, of Lower Hutt police, did not want to comment on the investigation yesterday, other than to say it was continuing.

Mr Cotter said he and his wife were not the only target of recent attacks. Their son, Tony, had his car intentionally damaged about a fortnight before the home invasion.

- The Dominion Post

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