Dapper clothes and a $130,000 BMW – man accused of defrauding Waitangi Treaty Grounds trust of $1.2 million dubbed himself 'Wallace the Tory' on social media

A 30-year-old man is facing charges in the Manukau District Court after allegedly defrauding the trust that looks after the Waitangi Treaty Grounds of $1.2 million.

Wallace Tamamotu Te Ahuru of Kerikeri faces two charges of obtaining by deception and seven charges of using forged documents.

The charges relate to when Te Ahuru worked for a subsidiary of the Waitangi National Trust between 2012 and 2016. The Serious Fraud Office says he was responsible for the trust’s financial administration.

Te Ahuru’s social media presence boasted of a life of luxury.

He called himself Wallace the Tory online and posted pictures of a $130,000 BMW, drinking champagne, playing croquet, and dining with former Prime Minister Sir John Key.

Now, questions are being asked over whether that lavish lifestyle was funded by allegedly defrauding the trust that runs the Treaty Grounds.

Waitangi National Trust chairman Pita Tipene told 1 NEWS the situation had impacted on the trust’s bottom-line. He refused to elaborate on how the fraud occurred.

“Over a million dollars taken out of any organisation’s bottom line is going to have a serious effect and all I can say is that we’ve been a victim of fraud.”

NATIONAL ICON

Political commentator Tau Henare said he was aghast.

“I’m shocked. It’s our national icon, it’s our national place regardless of the politics - that’s where it all started.”

A former trust board member told 1 NEWS that Te Ahuru was a polite, credible young man, his work was good and he was always dressed impeccably. And although the board member felt that Te Ahuru saw himself as a cut above the rest of the staff there was never anything to suggest any wrongdoing.

Auckland University’s law professor Dr Bill Hodge said he believed Te Ahuru was one of the youngest the SFO has ever prosecuted.

“I’ve never seen one of this age before the Serious Fraud Office. It’s not like that they say ‘Oh, we will never prosecute a young person,’ they just never get the opportunity to do so.”

Meanwhile, Mr Henare who is from northern iwi Ngāpuhi, said questions had to be asked of the governance.

“What sort of systems do you have in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen? Should heads roll? Most probably."

Te Ahuru did not enter a plea and is due to reappear in court on September 4.

Wallace Te Ahuru is accused of funding a lavish lifestyle by defrauding the trust by over a million dollars. Source: 1 NEWS



California jury finds career criminal guilty of raping, murdering two teens four decades ago

A Northern California jury today found guilty a career criminal thought to be the "Gypsy Hill Killer" of raping and murdering two teenage girls more than 42 years ago.

The San Mateo County jury deliberated for a little more than an hour before finding Rodney Halbower guilty.

Authorities believe the 69-year-old is responsible for other rapes and murders of young women in Northern California and Reno, Nevada, over a five-month span in 1976. In 2004, advances in DNA technology connected Halbower to the murders. He was in an Oregon prison at the time.

Halbower is scheduled to be sentenced on October 10 in Redwood City, about 40 kilometres south of San Francisco. The judge is required to sentence Halbower under the sentencing laws of 1976, the year the crimes occurred.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the stiffest sentence available then was life with the possibility of parole. Mr Wagstaffe said the judge can impose consecutive sentences, meaning if Halbower was given parole for one murder, he would start serving the life sentence for the second.

"Our expectation is that this monster of a killer will never, ever, be allowed to be free on our streets again," Mr Wagstaffe said.

The six murders remained a mystery for four decades until a cold-case detective re-opened the investigation. He scraped DNA samples from cigarette butts found at the scene and in 2014 they were discovered to match Halbower's genetic makeup. DNA taken from the victims also matched Halbower's DNA, prosecutors told jurors.

It took four years to start Halbower's after he was charged with two of the murders. He routinely fired his attorneys and demanded to represent himself. A judge also ordered a trial to determine if he was sane enough to stand trial. A jury in 2017 found him sane.

The start of the murder trial almost ended as soon as it started on September 7 with Halbower disrupting the proceedings.

"I am not guilty!" he yelled at the jury. "I have never raped or murdered in my life!"

The judge declined public defender John Halley's calls for a mistrial and Halbower ceased his outbursts.

"He doesn't get to set up his own mistrial," Judge Mark Forcum said.

He stopped the outbursts after that and Wagstaffe said Halbower calmly congratulated prosecutor Sean Gallagher after the verdicts were read.

Prosecutors said they charged him with the two murders with the strongest evidence and expected he would be locked up for life if convicted.

Mr Gallagher told the jury about the two teen girls who were abducted, raped and killed in a once-tranquil suburb, and that DNA from semen found in both women and preserved for decades matched Halbower's DNA. One of the victims was stabbed to death and the other was beaten in the head with concrete and stabbed in her heart.

Authorities in the 1970s said the killings were linked and dubbed the attacker the Gypsy Hill Killer for the location where one of the first victims was found. Halbower is also suspected of raping and killing a nursing student in Reno during the same period as the five California killings.

It's possible that Halbower would never have been linked to the attacks had he not escaped from a Nevada prison in December 1986. He made his way to Oregon, where he was arrested on suspicion of rape and attempted murder within days of his escape.

An Oregon jury convicted Halbower and sentenced him to 15 years in prison in that state. First, he was returned to Nevada to finish that state's prison term.

When Nevada paroled him in 2013, he was sent back to Oregon, where prison officials took a DNA sample and submitted it to the national database investigators use to revive stalled investigations. Authorities say the results linked him to the Gypsy Hill case.

Court records show Halbower has spent the past 53 years in prison or on the lam.

This undated file photo provided by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office shows Rodney Halbower. Source: Associated Press

TODAY'S
TOP STORIES

Tracking down New Plymouth youth MP candidates after Andrew Little's 'hip' appeal

Labour MP Andrew Little released a tongue in cheek video encouraging young people from New Plymouth to get involved in politics today.

The video inspired TVNZ1's Seven Sharp to travel to Mr Little's old school to find the perfect candidate for its new youth MP.

Judge for yourself if New Plymouth Boys' High students Thomas Foy and Jarrod Wilson have what it takes in the video above.

Tamati Rimene-Sproat is on the case after the Labour MP's piece of political theatre. Source: Seven Sharp

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Watch: Take a tour inside Kate Sheppard’s former house where suffragists worked to get women the right to vote

Suffragist Kate Sheppard's old house in Christchurch goes up for auction next month - so Seven Sharp host Hilary Barry took a tour.

Ms Sheppard was instrumental in gaining New Zealand women the right to vote in 1893. She carried out important work for the suffrage movement in the house during the late 19th Century.

Today saw celebrations around the country marking 125 years since women gained the right to vote in New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern has indicated the Government is interested in buying the house for the nation. It's expected to fetch in excess of $3 million when it goes under the hammer on October 17.

Hilary Barry met with the home's current owner Julia Burbury who showed her around the dwelling set on one acre of gardens.

The house has a category one heritage listing.

The piece of New Zealand history in Christchurch, worth more than $3 million, is up for auction. Source: Seven Sharp


Mum distraught as son turned away from Hutt Valley High School because he didn't have permanent address

Being homeless has become an obstacle for one mother wanting to give her child an education.

Helen Taitapanui and her son were turned away from Hutt Valley High School last week because they don't have a permanent residential address.

Ms Taitapanui, is currently battling cancer and lives in a motel with her teenage son while they wait for a permanent home.

"We've got to be glad that we've got that when we know that a lot of our families are out there living in cars," Ms Taitapanui told 1 NEWS.

However, this was a problem when she tried to enrol her son at a local school.

"The response was it's against their policy to register children living out of a motel. you had to have a residential address," Ms Taitapanui said.

She complained to the Ministry of Education and shortly after Hutt Valley High School reversed its decision.

Ms Taitapanui says her son's excited about going back to school.

"I know once he steps back into the realm of education he'll be well and truly away."

She hopes by speaking out, another unnecessary obstacle will be removed for the homeless.

Being homeless threw up an unexpected obstacle for a mum wanting to educate her child. Source: 1 NEWS