24 Mar 2011

Wellington diver admits faking disappearance

7:26 pm on 24 March 2011

A Wellington man who sparked an extensive coastal search before turning up alive and well in Hawke's Bay has been ordered to pay $16,000 in reparation to emergency services.

Colin Smithies, 49, appeared in the Wellington District Court on Thursday and pleaded guilty to a charge of wasting police time.

A rescue helicopter, Coastguard and other agencies joined the search when Smithies failed to return from a paua dive in January this year.

Two days later he went to a Hawke's Bay police station, claiming he had been abducted and drugged by two men in a campervan who sexually violated him.

Smithies later admitted that was not true, and said he had actually tried to kill himself in a way which looked like an accident so his partner could claim an insurance payout.

His lawyer said Smithies was suffering from clinical depression and has spent several weeks in Wellington Hospital's psychiatric ward since the incident.

The judge ordered that Smithies pay $16,292 in reparation to the emergency services and must also carry out 300 hours of community work. The search cost $48,000.