When two young men saw broadcaster Paul Holmes' $60,000 Jeep sitting in a car park with the keys in the ignition, they thought it was too good to be true.
Matthew Adam Jury, 19, jumped in and revved it up. He told his mate Zane Smiley Hodgson to hop in and asked him to drive.
"It was very cool," Jury said.
But the pair's road trip from Hawke's Bay to Taupo ended before it really started because police stopped them after learning the pair had driven off without paying for $151 of petrol.
After they admitted their offences in Napier District Court yesterday, Jury said outside court that he didn't know at the time who the Jeep Cherokee belonged to.
He still wasn't 100 per cent sure who the veteran broadcaster was. "I sort of know who he is. He used to be on TV."
Holmes has been recuperating at his Hawke's Bay home since undergoing open heart surgery in June.
His Jeep was stolen after he went into a pharmacy in Hastings to fill a prescription from his cardiologist. He was inside for 10-15 minutes and when he returned his vehicle was gone.
Police stopped the pair shortly afterwards on State Highway 5, heading towards Taupo.
They returned the Jeep to Holmes that afternoon - with a full tank of petrol.
Holmes said last night that the theft had come as a shock, but he hoped the pair meant what they said about learning from their mistakes.
"I'm relieved I got the car back but I've thought about these kids a bit over the last week and I've had a kid in trouble and I feel some sorrow for these boys . . . I wish them all the best but there has to be a payment, there has to be. What do you call it, retribution, there has to be consequences."
He had not realised the petrol was stolen, so he rang Gull and offered to pay, he said. But the service station owner decided to leave things as they were.
Lawyer Alan Cressey, for Jury, said the pair took the car to drive to Taupo to see Hodgson's mother, who was dying of cancer.
Judge Anne Gaskell said that was an explanation but no excuse.
Holmes said he wished Hodgson's parents well, but stealing a car was not the answer.
"There's a way to get to see a sick mother, and that's called a bus."
Jury and Hodgson pleaded guilty to unlawfully taking a vehicle and stealing $151 worth of petrol. Hodgson also pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified.
Jury was convicted and remanded on bail for sentence because he had two outstanding charges of breaching supervision.
Hodgson was sentenced to 100 hours' community work and ordered to pay $76 reparation.
He said he was sorry for his offending, which meant he now had a criminal record.
"It was one f...ing big mistake," he said. "You learn from your mistakes."
Holmes, presenter of TVNZ's Q+A current affairs show, is due to return to his Newstalk ZB radio slot on September 22.
- © Fairfax NZ News