Jeremy Buis named as Government employee who waged two-year harassment war

Jeremy Buis leaves court after his trial.
HAMISH McNEILLY/FAIRFAX NZ

Jeremy Buis leaves court after his trial.

A Dunedin man who waged a two-and-half year harassment campaign against a businessman can now be named.

Jeremy Fraser Buis' name suppression, which has been in place since he first appeared in court in May 2015, was lifted by Judge Paul Kellar when he appeared for sentencing in the Dunedin District Court on Friday morning.

However, Judge Kellar permanently suppressed his occupation.

Victim Daniel Pryde outside the Dunedin District Court
HAMISH McNEILLY/FAIRFAX NZ

Victim Daniel Pryde outside the Dunedin District Court

Buis was found guilty of criminal harassment, threatening to do grievous bodily harm and intentional damage in the judge's reserved decision delivered on Thursday.

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He was convicted, sentenced to 200 hours community work and ordered to pay emotional harm reparation of $15,000.

Graffiti around Dunedin targeting Daniel Pryde.
SUPPLIED

Graffiti around Dunedin targeting Daniel Pryde.

Victim Daniel Pryde, who waived his right to name suppression, said the reparation was "dirty money" and he would rather donate it to charity.

"What am I going to buy from someone who destroyed a big part of my life and tried to destroy my business and my marriage? Him trying to give me money doesn't fix those things."

The visibly upset victim said he felt the sentence "was a bit light". He also said he was "extremely surprised" Buis's occupation was suppressed.

Graffiti targeting Daniel Pryde around Dunedin.
SUPPLIED

Graffiti targeting Daniel Pryde around Dunedin.

It is understood Buis is still employed by the Government agency, although he was stood down for a time two years ago.

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In his decision Judge Kellar said: "From what should have been an innocuous incident about parking I am sure that Mr Buis has engaged in a sustained period of harassment of (victim) for a period of over two years."

Earlier Pryde said in a victim-impact statement: "I feared for my life and my wife and children."

Graffiti targeting Daniel Pryde around Dunedin.
SUPPLIED

Graffiti targeting Daniel Pryde around Dunedin.

"It was a living hell for us."

He and his wife had to undergo counselling, his health was impacted and he constantly worried for his children.

He recalled the time he saw a photo of himself on a New Zealand dating website, which had been uploaded by Buis, and said it made him and his wife "feel sick".

Buis walks by a detective who investigated him during a court trial.
HAMISH McNEILLY/FAIRFAX NZ

Buis walks by a detective who investigated him during a court trial.

Seeing his name tagged around Dunedin was "traumatic" and the drawings of penises alongside his name were humiliating.

Buis's counsel Anne Stevens said her client sought permanent name suppression to protect his family.

Judge Kellar noted the planning, premeditation and sophistication of the offending and the harassment had "hit its mark".

"This is inexplicable behaviour.

"This is an absolute tragedy."

THE INITIAL ENCOUNTER

The harassment campaign started on June 14, 2012 when Buis parked his vehicle across the entry to Pryde's Dunedin business.

Pryde rang Buis, who had his number advertising his surfboard-repair company on his vehicle, and threatened to have the car towed.

Buis returned later that day and, after talking to the complainant, he thought they "were cool", he told the court at his trial last month.

However, the next day he partially blocked the same driveway and received a text message from the complainant saying "Clever parking dickhead".

Pryde later posted a photo of a child's car seat in Buis's car on Facebook with the comment "Can you believe a (occupation suppressed) from Dunedin drives around with a kid's car seat held down with bike tiedowns?".

Pryde was visited by a police officer over the post, which he later removed, and Buis filed a police complaint that alleged the businessman had caused some damage to his vehicle.

THE HARASSMENT CAMPAIGN 

Two months after their initial encounter, a photo of a scantily-clad young woman and a message asking to "meet up with me" was sent to Pryde's mobile phone.

He did not respond, but gave the number to a colleague who eventually swapped pictures with the unknown sender.

"Hey nut sack. Thanks for getting  me up with your horny mate.  He takes really good photos," a November 2012 text sent to Pryde said.

By now Pryde was receiving many texts, including "I have a carseat that needs checking" and "Totally need to get u to check my car seat before u nark me into the pigs".

Between March and April 2013 more texts from unknown numbers were received, including messages from men seeking sex.

Pryde later discovered his name and number were written at a homosexual hang-out spot, which he then spray-painted over.

Pryde was also sent a male sex toy, and his portrait from his company's website was used for a dating profile under the profile name "Newgaymaletoplay".

A police forensic team later linked the creation of that profile to Buis's laptop, which had accessed Pryde's business website.

The creator of that dating profile accessed it dozens of times from a mobile phone, but police were unable to trace the user.

Police also could not track the sender of an anonymous letter alleging Pryde was a paedophile that was sent to businesses neighbouring his.

Between March 2014 and February 2015, 10  taggings featuring Pryde's name and a gay slur were written around Dunedin, including one several metres high on a rugby ground.

More text messages featuring gay slurs continued to be sent, plus one that said "Just a wee reminder that I own you b....". Other messages included "The homos will love it. Next time put some socks down your undies, make it look like you have nuts".

During the trial the court heard from former city councillor and broadcaster Neil Collins who received an anonymous letter about Pryde's family, who have name suppression.

A police forensic investigation later found a file on Buis' computer starting with "Dear Neil", but Buis denied authoring the document, despite it being created the same day the letter was date stamped.

Police forensics also revealed a mobile phone message conversation Buis had with a colleague about a photo of Pryde in the Otago Daily Times.

"There is opportunities for c.... to come from everywhere," the other man messaged Buis.

It was later revealed that same man saw and photographed the tagging at the rugby ground.

On December 2, 2014 the text messages became more sinister: "Why don't you tell the cops that some crazy motherf..... is going to come to ur house and slap you around" and "Buy something bullet proff (sic) c....  Your s... sister  can't help u, you are f.....".

Just before Christmas the complainant's wife received a letter alleging her husband was having an affair.

THE POLICE INVESTIGATION

In February 2015 police executed a search warrant at Buis's home, seizing cellphones, laptops, computers and other items.

A note found in his vehicle led to his downfall.

The note contained three crucial pieces of evidence linking the defendant with the harassment campaign: an email address, a phone number and letters referring to the dating website.

Police also searched his work locker and found pictures of penises surrounding the victim's brother-in-law's business card and pictures of men, including rugby player Sonny Bill Williams.

Buis told the court it was a prank from a former colleague.

Numerous images of Pryde and his family were found on Buis's computer. Buis told the court he found them "humorous" and that after the parking incident he did his "homework" on the victim.

It was also revealed a search on "how to make paint grenades" was made on Buis's computer. His former work colleague claimed the pair searched the item after visiting a paintball facility.

Judge Kellar noted the complainant's conduct "did not exactly cover him in glory", particularly as he sent provocative text messages from a "trap phone" designed to trick Buis into responding.

"Buis acted in that way with the intention of causing (the victim) to fear for his safety," the judge said in the decision.

"Any reasonable person would fear for their safety in those circumstances.

"What started out as something Mr Buis may have regarded as a prank escalated into threats to harm (the victim)."

 - Stuff

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