Tracking by tech pays off

18:53, Jan 30 2014
Chris Phillips
TRUE DETECTIVE: Chris Phillips with the iPhone he used to locate the theif who stole his iPad from his car on Rocks Rd on January 10.

A thief caught with the help of an iPhone app has admitted also burgling a Nelson tertiary institution and possessing two glass pipes for smoking methamphetamine.

Aaron James Waharoa pleaded guilty in the Nelson District Court to three charges of obtaining by deception, one each of burglary and theft, and two charges of possessing drug utensils.

Waharoa's crime featured in the Nelson Mail last week, after he was caught by the technological cunning of Chris and Markham Phillips.

When the father and son realised that an iPad with a tracking application was among items stolen from their car on January 10, they took an opportunity to recover their stolen property.

After initial leads from the tracking app went stale, the pair, who had contacted police and driven across Nelson in pursuit of the hot property, were almost ready to concede that they would never see their stuff again.

But they eventually traced the stolen iPad to a Washington Valley home, where police arrested Waharoa and charged him with theft and possessing a methamphetamine pipe.


Waharoa had been on bail for an earlier "opportunistic" crime, the court heard.

On December 6 last year, Waharoa, who is not a student, entered an unlocked building at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and took a cashbox and a Mobil card, which he used to buy more than $650 worth of groceries and cigarettes.

Police later searched his property and located the cashbox and a glass pipe.

Defence lawyer Craig Stevenson said Waharoa, a father of three, had "turned his life around until recent times", not having appeared in court for eight years.

Waharoa had done thousands of hours of unpaid voluntary work in Nelson for charities and sports boards, but now acknowledged that he needed counselling to help get his life back on track, Mr Stevenson said.

"He appears before you as a man with a [criminal] history, but also a history of not offending and putting back into the community," Mr Stevenson told Judge Ian Mill.

Yesterday, Chris Phillips said it was good that Wahaora had admitted his guilt and would face jail time, but he was "not big on vengeance".

"I am not going to get any joy out of it at all - such is life.

"One good thing is that it sends the right message to others - don't do it, you'll get caught."

He also said it proved that victims were not always helpless, and that the police did a very good job "when you give them respect".

Waharoa was remanded in custody after entering his guilty pleas, for sentencing on March 3.