Councillor admits bomb prank
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
New Christchurch city councillor Aaron Keown has confessed to a bomb-hoax prank at the South City Mall that went horribly wrong.
In an interview with The Press for a feature article, 39-year-old Keown, who is a staunch law-and-order candidate, admitted he fell foul of the law in 1997, when he made a bomb-hoax call.
"It's not even funny now," he said, "especially after 9/11."
He pulled the stunt at the South City Mall, where he sometimes worked as a hairdresser during the weekends.
On the day of the bomb hoax, he was working as a model in a mall show put on by Christchurch event organiser Denyse Saunders.
"We were always playing pranks on the girls, putting Rice Bubbles in their handbags and things like that.
"I was also touring a comedy show at the time and the joke was that I was going to phone up and say I was from the IRA and then ring back and say I had the wrong number."
He made the call from a cellphone "the size of a brick" and thought he did a pretty good job of mimicking a voice from a Brad Pitt movie called Devil's Own, which featured a young IRA member.
"I thought I was doing really well and the girl said, `is that you, Aaron?' I said, `No, you've got two minutes to get out.' I thought I would ring back, but we were called on stage and I forgot ... "
South City was evacuated and he went outside to see a lot of upset people.
"It was a busy day in the mall and when I saw all the people I thought, `Oh crap, better keep my mouth shut'."
Two weeks later, a police officer came up Keown's driveway.
"I said `I bet I know what you are here for'."
The police were good about the prank, but the mall owners wanted a prosecution, Keown said.
He was given diversion on a charge under the Misuse of Telecommunications Act, which meant he gave $500 to Orana Park and avoided a conviction.
He also lost his job as a hairdresser and forfeited his earnings as a model.
"If I could turn the clock back ... [I] would have made sure I got the joke right," he said. "It's not one of the big regrets of my life."
Keown said he believed in zero tolerance – "by the time it gets to the big offences it's too late" – but "everyone was entitled to one get-out-of-jail-free card".
The new councillor, who says his main talent is making people laugh, still has hardline law-and-order views. He believes in the death penalty, three strikes, sterilisation for people convicted of seriously abusing their own children, life sentences meaning life, and abolishing concurrent sentences.
In the feature article, Keown tells The Press about his chequered school career and the stepfather who committed suicide in gruesome circumstances.
His mother, Laureen Reilly, 60, was killed when a car crashed into a vehicle in which she was a passenger in May, 2008. The car was driven by Arcanie Vincent Optetaia Matagi, then 25, who veered on to the wrong side of the road while racing another car. Keown was already "hot" on the Christchurch boy-racer problem and the incident made him "declare war".
The sentence of two years eight months jail handed out to Matagi was inadequate, he said. Keown also lost a cousin in a car accident caused by a reckless driver.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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