21 Feb 2024

'We were hiding in the house, feeling absolutely threatened' - Traveller's motorbike stolen and stripped

8:22 am on 21 February 2024
The bike after it was retrieved.

The bike after it was retrieved. Photo: Supplied

A man's motorbike was stolen by a thief who stripped it and then rode up and down a Hawke's Bay street, but police told him it would be difficult to press charges despite finding the bike at a nearby house.

The man says local police officers told him it was a Mongrel Mob-affiliated address.

The German traveller was staying in a bach in the tiny Hawke's Bay town of Nuhaka and said he and his son hid in the house, feeling threatened by a group of locals who laughed at them and made throat-slitting gestures.

Police said in a statement the location of the bike, while suspicious, did not prove it was stolen by the home's occupiers.

They gave the pair a police escort out of town.

The man and his 17-year-old son - who RNZ has agreed not to name - were travelling down the East Coast on their single-cylinder motorbikes and stayed at a friend's unoccupied bach on Nuhaka Opoutama Road, between Wairoa and Gisborne, on Sunday night.

They parked their motorbikes behind the bach and woke up just before 4am, intending to watch the Rocket Lab launch at Mahia, but when they checked on the bikes they found one missing.

"We were quite worried that the second bike would get stolen too," the man said, so they turned the lights on, stayed up and kept watch.

The next morning they reported the theft to the police, but about 8am, the motorbike was driven past on the street outside.

It was completely stripped, the man said, "short wired" and being ridden by "a young guy with a bandana and no helmet, going up and down the road, clearly provoking us".

The man jumped onto the other bike and followed the thief into a driveway of a "dodgy-as" house, where several people were sitting outside "laughing at us".

It took a scarier turn when the men began making throat-cutting gestures, the traveller said, and he quickly returned to the bach.

It took 90 minutes for the police to arrive from Wairoa, and in that time, a black four-wheel-drive with tinted windows passed slowly by their bach, "checking us out".

"We were hiding in the house, talking to police, feeling absolutely threatened."

The traveller's bike before it was stolen and stripped.

The traveller's bike before it was stolen and stripped. Photo: Supplied

The man said he and his son both wanted to leave, but they had far too much luggage to travel on one bike and they were scared of being followed.

When police arrived, they were "definitely worried to enter that property," he said. But they eventually did, and found the bike parked, "completely stripped of everything", but still rideable.

With the son riding the recovered bike, the police gave them an escort part-way back to Wairoa. "That was really scary, because we were still worried someone would follow us and drive us off the road."

But they made it safely to Wairoa, and spent hours ringing around to get the bike moved, as it was no longer road legal with no plates and no lights.

Eventually they found a company which could pick it up from Napier the next day, and so with the permission of a Wairoa police officer, and his cellphone number in case they were stopped, they made the drive south.

They spent Monday night in Napier at a hotel. "That was really the first time where we felt reasonably safe," the man said.

On Tuesday, they cut their trip short, pared down their luggage, and doubled up on one bike "to limp home to Auckland and then Whangārei," he said.

"We're over it.

"I've known New Zealand a while, and I didn't think that would ever happen to me, you know? We were thinking of accidents and break down, but never ever about a bike getting burgled from behind a house."

He said they were facing a bill of about $6000 for the damage done to the bike, which wasn't insured, and they had set up a Givealittle page.

"We kept saying to ourselves, 'Look, we are alright, we are not harmed, nothing really happened, all the rest can be replaced'."

He said the local officers told him "nobody will be charged, there is basically no case".

Despite two cases having been opened - one for theft, and one for threatening behaviour - police confirmed there would be challenges laying charges.

"Under the Solicitor-General Prosecution Guidelines, police must be able to locate sufficient evidence to meet the evidential test - which requires sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction," they said in a statement.

"This includes having an identifiable individual who has committed the offence and credible evidence, alongside a reasonable prospect of conviction. The location of the bike, while suspicious, does not prove that the occupiers of the house stole the bike.

"Final enquiries being undertaken will help determine any further police action."

The traveller said local officers told him it was a Mongrel Mob-affiliated address, but the police media team spokesperson could not confirm this.