Gelignite in Taupo linked to explosive burglaries

LUKE KIRKEBY
Last updated 08:43 24/01/2014
Taupo
Fairfax NZ

DANGER: A police cordon was put in place on Tamamutu St and residents evacuated after a box of gelignite was found buried in a garden.

Rex Hawkins
INVESTIGATOR: Former Taupo police inspector Rex Hawkins believes the gelignite found on Monday could be linked to a series of burglaries in 1968.

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A series of explosive, safe-cracking, burglaries in 1968 could hold a clue as to how a box of gelignite ended up being found in a Taupo garden.

Tamamutu St was cordoned off on Monday afternoon and the bomb squad called in after the gelignite was unearthed during excavation work at a rental property.

Police also evacuated properties neighbouring the house where the explosives were found as a precautionary measure.

How the box came to be there was a mystery to the home's occupants, but former Taupo police detective inspector Rex Hawkins believes it could be linked with the 1968 burglaries.

During five burglaries in Taupo on April 12, 1968, four attempts were made to blow safes at various local businesses using gelignite. Two were successful. The gelignite used in the burglaries had been stolen from a forestry company near Tokoroa.

Mr Hawkins said although the man responsible was arrested and police took possession of a large quantity of the gelignite, not all was recovered, including rare two-inch diameter gelignite.

"We arrested the guy responsible who lived down by Cherry Island.

"Gelignite usually came in one-inch diameters and less commonly two-inch, so if it was two-inch then it is highly likely to be linked," he said.

The Taupo Times report on the case stated the burglaries were discovered before daylight, which Mr Hawkins confirmed.

"They successfully blew open a safe at Firth Concrete using more than was needed.

"We went up at around 2am or 3am on a foggy morning and they had had just about blown a wall out," he said.

"Hawke's Bay Motor Company, which is where Dick Smith now is on the corner of Tamamutu and Gascoigne streets, had all its windows blown out too."

Safe blowing was not common in those days and it was among his first experiences in Taupo.

"I had recently shifted from Wellington where I had been with the Criminal Investigation Branch for a few years and during that time I had only seen two safes blown.

"This happened not long after I arrived in Taupo, and having all those safes blown was quite an experience."

Mr Hawkins said he didn't know how or why the gelignite could have come to be buried at the Tamamutu St address.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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