Wanted man disappeared after going on 'holiday'

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 10/06/2014
Fraud suspects
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WANTED: Paul James Bennett, right, and his partner, Simone Anne Wright.

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A man being sought by police investigating an alleged $250,000 helicopter company rip-off told his landlord he was going on holiday.

Nearly three weeks later, Paul James Bennett's belongings had been removed from the rental property in Middleton, Christchurch, the place was cleaned and the garage-door remote and keys left in the letterbox, the landlord says.


Have you seen Paul Bennett and Simone Wright, or heard anything about where they are? Email blair.ensor@fairfaxmedia.co.nz


Police searched the home about that time but it was understood they found no evidence of use to their investigation.

According to the multimillionaire owner of a helicopter company, he called to query him about alleged fake invoices on May 6 but has not heard from Bennett since then.

Detective Sergeant Craig Farrant said yesterday investigators were following up suspected sightings of Bennett, 51, and his partner, Simone Anne Wright, 37, and their car (a rare silver BMW, registration GGN840) after publicity about the case at the weekend.

Bennett was born in the Waikato and has a long reported history of eluding police, here and abroad. He once talked his way into becoming the helicopter pilot for Hollywood actor Russell Crowe.

Police have confirmed there is a warrant out for Bennett and Wright's arrest.

The helicopter company owner said that 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, according to the owner.

Yesterday, the company owner said he phoned Bennett on May 6 after he was sent an invoice he suspected had been digitally manipulated.

"His [Bennett's] last words to me on the telephone was, ‘It's an MYOB [accounting software] problem with a computer of the company, give me two days and I'll have it sorted'."

The businessman said he travelled to Christchurch on May 8 after he was unable to make further contact with Bennett.

He said: "I went straight to his house that night. The doors were locked and the blinds were pulled tight but I could see some of my items [helicopter parts] in the garage."

A complaint was lodged with police on May 10. Police searched the property on May 26 but, according to the landlord, by then everything was gone.

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Bennett and Wright's landlord said the couple lived in her rental property in Middleton for about a year before they emailed to say they were going on holiday about May 6. They paid $900 a week for the three-bedroom unit and never missed a payment.

Two days before police searched the home, the landlord said there was mail for Bennett and Wright in the letterbox and many of their personal belongings were still inside.

"Everything was there but . . . when police came everything was gone."

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

- The Press

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