Couple on run face sex claim

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 22/06/2014
Bennett and Wright

COMPLAINANT: "I've never in my life asked for help but this time I am begging for anyone with information that could lead to their arrest to come forward."

Fraud suspects
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WANTED: Paul James Bennett, right, and his partner, Simone Anne Wright.

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A man and woman infamously linked to actor Russell Crowe and on the run from police are also wanted over allegations they indecently assaulted a teenage girl.

Paul James Bennett, 51, and Simone Anne Wright, 37, have never appeared in court over the alleged incident, said to have occurred in the late 2000s.

The couple have since assumed new identities and are on the run from police.

A woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has confirmed to the Sunday Star-Times she laid a complaint.

A warrant was issued for the couple's arrest but the Star-Times understands the allegation has never been put to Bennett and Wright, because they continue to evade arrest.

Months after the warrant was issued, Bennett was pulled over during a roadside breath test in Tauranga, but allegedly slipped through undetected, a source says.

A police spokesman said: "We have made extensive efforts to apprehend the pair since a warrant was issued for their arrest in 2008. During this time Mr Bennett and Ms Wright have actively avoided arrest and evaded law enforcement agencies in both New Zealand and Australia.

"Police are aware that the pair have used a number of false identities."

The woman was in tears as she recounted details of the allegations and appealed for anyone who saw Bennett and Wright to contact police immediately.

"I've never in my life asked for help but this time I am begging for anyone with information that could lead to their arrest to come forward," the woman told the Star-Times.

"It would change my life like you wouldn't believe. I just want to lead a normal happy life as I did before I met them."

Police made a public appeal for information about Bennett and Wright in connection with an ongoing investigation on June 7.

A multi-millionaire alleges Bennett defrauded his Canterbury helicopter company of $250,000.

Last week, Canterbury district investigations manager Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald said police believed the couple were still in the country and had visited Dunedin, Nelson and Auckland in the past three weeks.

They were likely driving a silver 2004 Subaru Forester, registration FBF999, Fitzgerald said.

An investigation by Fairfax Media has found that the duo spent time in Nelson, Wanaka and Christchurch since 2011. In each location they lived in fully furnished, high-end rental accommodation and avoided paying bond.

The woman said she met Bennett and Wright a number of years ago. She knew them then as Paul and Simone Williams.

"I was scared to tell Mum and Dad and people around me [after the alleged incident]. I was terrified and I've been terrified ever since," she said.

"I very rarely socialise or try to make friends because of it. I'm a real homebody and before I was very outgoing and bubbly. I can't bear being away from home."

The woman said she was upset the couple was never arrested and had lost faith in the police.

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She felt like she was being "interrogated" when interviewed and "after that I didn't really have a lot of support either".

Detective Senior Sergeant Nadene Richmond, of the Waitemata child protection team, defended police's handling of the alleged sexual assault.

The complainant was interviewed by a specialist child interviewer, trained in matters of a sexual nature, Richmond said.

Since then police had provided on-going support to the alleged victim.

Bennett and Wright had most recently been living at a $900-a-week, three-bedroom rental property in Middleton, Christchurch, until they told their landlord they were going on holiday early last month.

A millionaire helicopter company owner said he contacted Bennett to query him about alleged fake invoices on May 6. The couple have not been heard from since.

Using the alias David Kite, Bennett was contracted by the company to find several helicopters and other parts overseas.

He then allegedly fabricated and inflated invoices for items he had supposedly bought and was reimbursed by the company.

Bennett was born in the Waikato and has a long reported history of eluding police, here and abroad. Once, without having an appropriate licence, he talked his way into becoming the helicopter pilot for actor Russell Crowe.

Anyone with information is urged to call Christchurch police on 03 363 7400 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

- Sunday Star Times

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