Court fright for mortuary ghost hunter

BY FELICITY ROSS
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2010

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A man hunting for ghosts in a mortuary got more than he bargained for when he appeared in the New Plymouth District Court yesterday.

Benjamin Cooper, 21, was sentenced to 200 hours community service for breaking into the Barrett St Hospital Mortuary.

Cooper and an associate had been drinking when they decided to check out what they thought was an abandoned morgue in the old hospital grounds.

They used a concrete block to smash a door jamb and entered the building which is now used by Carrington Funeral Home for embalming and storing bodies.

Cooper and his associate removed the lid from a casket and left refrigerator doors open before leaving.

No bodies were being stored in the building at the time of the break-in.

Cooper told police he had just wanted to look around and see if there were any ghosts around.

A 79-year-old woman who was involved in a fatal three-car collision pleaded guilty to careless driving causing injury.

Dorothy Lucas said, through her lawyer Susan Hughes QC, how sorry she was at the death of 74-year-old Marie Abel.

On that afternoon in May, Lucas had been driving her 10-year-old granddaughter to an after school activity when the accident occurred.

Ms Hughes said Lucas had a "momentary lapse" of concentration when she hit Mrs Abel's car from behind, propelling her forward into the path of a four- wheel-drive.

Mrs Abel suffered from multiple injuries.

Ms Hughes said Lucas expressed great regret and cannot explain how the accident happened.

Judge Allan Roberts accepted that prior to the accident Lucas had a blemish free driving record of more than 50 years.

He fined her $1000, disqualified her from driving for nine months and ordered her to pay reparation of $250.

A New Plymouth man who admitted to drinking three bottles of wine before driving to a mate's place has been given a final warning.

Simon David Bazley Martin, 47, was caught with a reading of 1028mg of alcohol driving along Coronation Ave. Police stopped a speeding Martin who had swerved across the centre line, damaged a road sign and hit a traffic island near a pedestrian crossing.

It was Martin's third conviction for drunk driving. Judge Roberts said he was impressed that since his arrest Martin had abstained from drinking and had made a real effort to address his demons.

"You have faced the issues in your life more than anyone else I have seen," Judge Roberts said.

Martin was fined $2000 and disqualified from driving for 12 months and one day.

An intoxicated sportsman who stole a chair from a Tariki pub after they kicked him out for bad behaviour has been given a week to pay for it or he goes to jail.

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Simon Brad Richardson, 17, was drinking at Icon's Sports Bar with his team on July 10 when staff asked him to leave.

After a drunken Richardson tried unsuccessfully to get back into the pub he picked up an outside chair and took it onto his team's bus, the court heard.

The theft was captured on CCTV. Judge Roberts said in lieu of the chair being returned to the bar, Richardson needed to pay reparation for it.

"You have a drinking problem. This isn't normal behaviour, tipping drink down your throat and acting like a monkey."

Reece Rongonui, 40, pleaded guilty to one charge of possession of cannabis and one of possession of methamphetamine and told the court it was unrealistic to expect him to stay sober.

On July 7 during a search of Rongonui's home, police found .1 of a gram of methamphetamine, 17 grams of cannabis and digital scales.

Rongonui said the drugs were for personal use and he had scales so he wouldn't get "ripped off" when purchasing the "expensive" products.

Judge Roberts sentenced Rongonui to 75 hours community work on each charge and remitted his fines of $11,000, adding 300 more hours of community work.

- Taranaki Daily News

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