Accused feared for family, court told

A Wanaka man accused of stealing thousands of dollars of livestock said he was being threatened and feared for his family, the Invercargill District Court has been told.

Simon Robert Hawkins faces 22 charges of theft, relating to deer, sheep, velvet and barley taken from Criffel Deer Farm and Wanaka farmer Grant Cochrane between 2009 and 2011.

His jury trial started yesterday.

Hawkins was jointly charged with Dean Thomas Herd, the former manager of Criffel Deer Farm, who earlier admitted all charges.

Crown prosecutor John Young said Herd had given Hawkins livestock from Criffel Deer Farm, including sheep belonging to Mr Cochrane that were grazing on the farm, to sell to Alliance. The pair intended to split the profits of the slaughter, Mr Young said.

In total, 631 deer, valued at $278,000, were taken, along with 11 stags, valued at $10,000, and about 120 sheep.

Hawkins had said he thought the livestock belonged to Mr Herd and believed he was acting legally when selling the animals for slaughter. The jury would have to decide whether this was true, Mr Young said.

"There's no doubt Mr Hawkins took the deer. The question or the issue will be 'did he do so dishonestly?'."

Mr Cochrane told the jury he had taken up two offers made by Herd to graze sheep for no cost at Criffel Deer Farm in 2011.

Following both occasions, Mr Cochrane noticed sheep were missing, which was suspicious because fencing at the farm was "very good", he said.

When he confronted Herd about the missing sheep, he acted shocked, and on the second occasion he voiced ideas that Hawkins was behind the thefts, Mr Cochrane said.

After confronting Herd the second time, he decided to search for his missing sheep and found Hawkins loading the animals onto a trailer, he said.

Hawkins admitted the sheep belonged to Mr Cochrane, told him where the rest of his sheep were, and arranged compensation for those already slaughtered at Alliance, he said.

He did not go to police because he felt the matter had been dealt with, he said.

Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield put it to Mr Cochrane that Hawkins had told him he was being threatened by Herd.

"He broke down, he was crying, and he told you that he was only a minnow and . . . that the big fish was still out there. He told you that he was worried about his wife and kids."

Mr Cochrane said that was correct.

The trial, being heard before Judge Michael Turner, is expected to continue for two weeks.


The Southland Times