Tourists lured with fake Facebook profile, trapped in room and threatened with knife

A false Facebook profile was used to lure three female tourists to a room where a man with a knife on a pole and a ...
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A false Facebook profile was used to lure three female tourists to a room where a man with a knife on a pole and a padlock for the door awaited them.

Three young female tourists were lured by a man using a fake Facebook profile, trapped in a padlocked flat and menaced with a knife strapped to the end of a metal pole.

But the women were able to turn the tables on Taumarunui man Sherb Junior Tamati, 32, though in the midst of the melee one of the women jumped from a second-storey window.

Tamati was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison when he appeared in the Hamilton District Court on Monday afternoon on charges of kidnapping and assault with intent to rob.

He had set up the profile under the guise of being a manager of a Taumarunui cafe, offering the three women - all aged in their early 20s - employment and accommodation late in 2016.

They had been travelling the length of New Zealand for several months, picking up casual work where they could to help pay for their journey.

It was on November 27 last year when Tamati invited the three into his flat, which was situated above a business in central Taumarunui.

After showing the three around the flat, he ushered them into the lounge when, without warning, he pulled out the knife on the pole, which had been hidden behind a television set, and demanded they give him all their money.

However, one of the women was behind Tamati when he did this and she immediately leapt on his back while one of her companions grabbed the pole and knife.

A struggle ensued. One terrified woman fled from the room, only to find the flat's front door had been padlocked.

She ran to the kitchen and climbed out a window, jumping from the second floor into a courtyard two metres below. 

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Meanwhile the other two women were violently trying to overcome their attacker, strangling him, punching him in the face, scratching him, biting his hands and poking his eyes with their fingers in an attempt to get him to let go of his weapon.

The two eventually managed to wrestle the knife from him and stood on it. Tamati ran into the kitchen while the two remaining women ran to the front door, which was still padlocked.

They managed to climb out another window and escaped along a rooftop.

With his prey now out of his clutches, Tamati also climbed out the kitchen window and fled the scene.

It wasn't long before he was found and arrested. Tamati told police he was under "tremendous pressure" from losing his jobs, and had spent all his money on methamphetamine and alcohol.

One of the women suffered swelling and bruising to her head from a blow inflicted during the fracas, and all three had been left shaken by the experience.

Crown prosecutor Shelley Gilbert sought a minimum non-parole period of half of Tamati's sentence, which was granted by Judge Simon Menzies, who said protecting the public and deterring future such offending was paramount.

There had been a very high level of premeditation, with Tamati not only taking the time to set up the fake Facebook profile, but also preparing his room with the knife and pole - "almost a bayonet" - and padlocking the front door.

He had lured the women there with the specific intention of robbing them.

"This was a well-thought-out plan ... he deliberately targeted tourists," Gilbert said.

It was not Tamati's first such offence in his 33-strong conviction history. He was jailed in 2010 for two years and four months on a charge of assault with intent to rob, and he had since amassed further convictions for assault with intent to injure, male assaults female and property theft.

A pre-sentence report had found he had only "superficial" insight into his offending and was at high risk of reoffending and harm to others.

Tamati had pleaded guilty at an earlier appearance and was entitled to a 25 per cent discount on his sentence as a result.

Judge Menzies said he had no doubt the incident would have terrified the three tourists.

"Their time in New Zealand was blighted for them. Now their only association with their holiday was this event.

"They say [in the victim impact statements] they have found it much harder to trust people in New Zealand since this event."

 - Stuff

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