Feud sparked botched arrest

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 23/09/2013
Southland Times photo
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
Southland farmer Corey Vreugdenhil.

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A nasty and long-running feud between two Southland neighbours was behind the botched police arrest of Corey Vreugdenhil that resulted in police ultimately agreeing to pay him $14,000 in damages and costs.

Three constables were found to have unlawfully entered Mr Vreugdenhil's Greenhills home to arrest him in March last year after receiving a complaint of intimidation from Mr Vreugdenhil's neighbour Les Cooper.

Police documents say there is an extensive history of threats and violence between Mr Vreugdenhil and Mr Cooper, with more than 15 incidents between the pair in the past six years.

Mr Vreugdenhil was known to police as unpredictable and non-compliant, the documents say.

Mr Vreugdenhil, a tall and large man, said yesterday the tensions escalated in 2007 when his neighbour, Mr Cooper, "who is 5ft something, poked his head over the fence and said he was going to teach me a lesson. 'I said, here I am.'

"He came running around the fence and came charging at me and I pushed him to one side and he hit his head on the fence."

Mr Cooper "had another go", so Mr Vreugdenhil said he pushed him to the ground, which had water lying on it, and placed his foot on his neck.

Mr Cooper declined to comment about the ongoing conflict when visited at his home by The Southland Times yesterday.

Southland area commander Inspector Lane Todd said yesterday that police were "certainly mindful of the tensions" between the pair.

"We have been trying to work with both of them to resolve some longstanding issues ... things do escalate from time to time, unfortunately," Mr Todd said.

The feud between the two men follows another well-documented feud between West Plains farmers Steve Douglas and Iain MacGregor. Both men are well known to the police for their feuding over the past few years.

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