17 Sep 2023

‘Let’s flood the market’: Cop killer’s getaway driver caught throwing nearly 1kg meth out window during police raid

11:35 am on 17 September 2023

By Jared Savage of NZ Herald

Natalie Bracken on trial in the Auckland High Court.

Natalie Jane Bracken (file image). Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

The young woman who helped a cop killer escape after he gunned down two police officers now faces another prison sentence after she was seen dropping nearly 1kg of meth out of her bedroom window.

Natalie Jane Bracken and her partner Zion Hamuera Holtz were caught red-handed during a police raid on their Auckland home just a few days before Christmas last year.

The arrest came a little more than 18 months after Bracken featured in a high-profile criminal trial and was sentenced for her inexplicable behaviour while visiting a West Auckland home in June 2020.

She heard a car crash and went outside with two others to help a screaming woman whose husband had been in a collision with a vehicle driven by a man called Eli Epiha.

Epiha crashed after being pursued by two officers in a police car, and Bracken watched as he exited the car and fired a semi-automatic rifle at constables Matthew Hunt and David Goldfinch. Epiha fired 14 shots; four hit Goldfinch and four hit Hunt, who later died from his injuries.

Cellphone footage captured what happened next.

Epiha wanted to be driven away before more police arrived and approached Bracken and her two companions standing on the street.

While the others ran inside to hide, Bracken tried to open the driver's door of the car belonging to her friend. It was locked, so she ran inside and returned with the keys before driving Epiha away.

Bracken dropped him at an associate's house and had nothing more to do with him. But on the return trip, she passed a marked police car without stopping or telling them what happened, or where Epiha was.

She was charged with being an accessory after the fact to wounding with grievous bodily harm, as Hunt was still alive when Bracken acted as Epiha's getaway driver.

Epiha will serve at least 27 years in prison for murder and attempted murder, but Bracken denied her offending at a High Court trial in 2021.

Her defence was that she drove Epiha to protect others from further injury, not to help him, and that she was acting out of fear or compulsion.

But the jury found her guilty. In sentencing her to 12 months in prison, Justice Geoffrey Venning said Bracken's actions allowed Epiha to evade police and dispose of the murder weapon.

It was only good luck and effective police work that led to Epiha being arrested a few hours later, without further violence.

"You have potential," Justice Venning told the then 31-year-old. "You can still turn your life around but it is up to you to take the steps that you have to take to do that. You need to remove yourself from your association with people who use serious drugs, and people who have the sort of negative attitude towards police and authority."

But soon after being released from prison, Bracken resumed a relationship with Zion Holtz, who has links to the Comancheros motorcycle gang.

The police were investigating Holtz for suspected drug dealing and in December last year raided the Sandringham home where the couple were living.

As police entered the address, Bracken was seen dropping a shopping bag out of the bedroom window.

Inside were seven individually wrapped plastic bags each containing 140g of methamphetamine - a total of nearly 1kg of the Class A drug.

The investigation also discovered messages sent by Bracken on the encrypted Wickr app, in which she discussed selling meth.

The prospective buyer asked Bracken if she could still do the "55 ones" - a reference to $5500, a price consistent with an ounce of meth - and asked if it was "wet stuff", which means methamphetamine manufactured in New Zealand, as opposed to imported.

Bracken replied "yup" and said that she and "Zee" - meaning Holtz - could bring 14 ounces.

She offered to bring 10 ounces at $5000 each, but the associate declined as they got it cheaper from another source.

Wickr messages sent by Holtz showed he was part of a drug syndicate where he bought bulk quantities of methamphetamine to supply a network of his own dealers, who sold the drugs in smaller quantities.

In a message sent two days before the raid, Holtz wanted to buy a kilogram of methamphetamine for $145,000.

The seller asked how fast Holtz could "move it", suggesting to sell ounces cheaper to sell it faster.

"Let's flood the market," the seller told Holtz.

Bracken, now 33, and Holtz, 31, have now pleaded guilty to joint charges of possession of methamphetamine for supply, and offering to supply the Class-A drug.

Holtz pleaded guilty to an additional charge of supplying methamphetamine. The offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

A name suppression order protecting Bracken's identity has now been lifted and the couple will be sentenced in the Auckland District Court in November.

This story was originally published by the New Zealand Herald.

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