Plan to crash plane into court

SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 14:56 19/03/2013
Travis Doel
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ANGRY MAN: A dispute over his mother’s will and the towing of his car caused Travis Doel, 24, to commit a string of serious crimes.
Courthouse plane split
INTENDED TARGET: Travis Doel wanted to crash a stolen plane into the Nelson Court House.

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A Stoke man who left a trail of destruction across Nelson in a six-hour rampage intended flying a stolen plane into the Nelson courthouse.

Travis Ian Doel, 24, got as far as ramming a pocketknife into the ignition of a Sounds Air plane and got power to the aircraft.

It is understood Doel knows how to fly aircraft.

However, he did not know enough to fully start the Sounds Air plane and after several failed attempts to start it he had to abandon his plan.

He was arrested at the Nelson Aero Club and told police he wanted to steal the plane to fly it into the Nelson courthouse.

Doel told police that voices in his head had led him to carry out the damage against people who "put money before morals".

Details about what prompted Doel to commit a string of serious crimes in Nelson over six hours early on March 8, including setting fire to two buildings and driving into the Public Trust offices in Nelson, can now be revealed.

In the Nelson District Court yesterday, Doel admitted the arson of the Tender Centre in Vanguard St and Central Self-Storage in Stoke, intentional damage to the Public Trust building in Buxton Square, reckless damage to a rental car, two counts of burglary and unlawfully interfering with a Sounds Air plane at Nelson Airport.

The police summary of facts shows that Doel, who recently returned to New Zealand after living in Australia for several years, became enraged by incidents that happened two days before his crime spree.

Doel had been involved in a dispute with Nelson Public Trust staff after his mother died.

He believed he was owed $38,000 from his mother's estate, which the Public Trust had not authorised.

He left threatening messages with staff and on March 7 he was trespassed from the Public Trust premises.

Also on March 7, bailiffs from the Nelson court seized Doel's car because he owed $8800 in unpaid fines.

His car was taken from a rented storage location in Packham Cres, Stoke.

Doel turned up at the storage shed after the seizure warrant was executed. The storage unit manager denied him access to his unit. He also had items belonging to his mother at the storage facility.

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After learning his car had been towed, and he was not being allowed into the unit, Doel became enraged at the different parties, including Nelson District Court staff.

The next day, Doel hired a Nissan station wagon from the Nelson Rental Car Association.

At 12.50am on March 9, Doel went to his rented storage unit in Stoke. He tried to get in by smashing a window with a spanner.

He wanted to set fire to the office, but was unable to get in as the window was made of safety glass and he could not smash it.

Instead, he set fire to paper towels in an adjoining toilet. The fire caused some melting and smoke damage but did not damage the office unit.

Doel had earlier established that staff from the Tender Centre had towed his car.

At 1.40am, he drove to the Tender Centre and, using a sledgehammer, smashed his way into the building.

He wanted to get his vehicle but it was not stored at the Tender Centre, so he set fire to paper in the office.

The fire extensively damaged the building and the vehicles stored there.

After watching emergency services battle the fire, Doel drove to the Buxton Square car park and reversed, accelerating heavily, into the front door of the Public Trust office. The window was smashed and the counter suffered extensive damage in the impact.

The rental vehicle was moderately damaged.

Doel told police he wanted to set fire to the building but he was concerned as people had been living above it.

Doel then drove to Nelson Airport and tried unsuccessfully to get into an aircraft.

He was able to get into a second aircraft, removing its covers and preparing for takeoff.

He forced a pocketknife into the plane's ignition and was able to access power to the plane.

"Although power was available in the aircraft, the defendant did not have the knowledge to fully start the aircraft and after several failed attempts he jumped out of the cockpit and walked back to his vehicle," the court was told.

Police had been informed, and they arrested Doel at the Nelson Aero Club.

His lawyer, Mark Dollimore, said Doel had asked him to stress that he checked to make sure no-one was in the properties he set fire to or the Public Trust building.

Judge Tony Zohrab remanded Doel in custody for sentencing on April 30.

- Nelson

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