December 31, 2007
The Beasts of Benmore: Oct 07 issue
THE BEASTS OF BENMORE
Experts are close to confirming the existence of possibly two varieties of exotic big cats living wild in New Zealand – American mountain lions and African or Asian black leopards. Researcher IAN LUCAS and documentary-maker MARK ORTON provide two perspectives of the hunt for evidence, including the latest sightings
It was the morning of Monday the 18th of July, 1977 when Christchurch police received a startled call from concerned citizen. Mrs F Clark, a resident of Kaiapoi, rang to report she had seen a “tiger” outside the gate of her suburban home. The call was taken seriously as it was initially thought a big cat could have escaped from Orana Park Zoo. A thorough search of the area was fruitless, neither sight nor sign of any big feline eventuating. Poor Mrs Clark became the target of malicious calls, jokes were made about her, she was called a liar and worse. Redemption was forthcoming however when large pug marks and droppings were found at an isolated part of nearby Pines Beach later in the week, followed by a sighting of the elusive creature by a local farmer on the Friday afternoon.
It is unclear if Mrs Clark actually saw stripes on the cat or just used the term ‘tiger’ just to signify a very large member of the cat family .The mystery feline wasn’t to be seen again however and after a week of regular reporting, the Christchurch Press soon dropped the story-line. With what we know today however, this story would appear to be the first well-documented account of a so called ‘mystery big cat’ sighting in New Zealand.
A popular misconception is that sightings of the mysterious cats began in the mid 1990s, however research has shown this to be incorrect. Another fact, as was the case in the story just related, is that not all sightings are of black, panther type animals. Brown or tan-coloured cats resembling cougar/puma are also described.
Back in 2000 when I began researching the big cats I was fortunate to receive details of such a sighting from a gentleman who, in 1962, had been working on an orchard in the Cromwell Gorge area of Central Otago. After work one summer’s evening he faced his fears by gamely crossing the Clutha River on a rickety old flying fox. Successfully, but not without difficulty, he reached the far side and headed off towards an old miner’s cottage at the foot of a barren hillside. As he approached he became aware of a very large fawn coloured ‘puma’ just a few metres from the building. It quickly scarpered off up the slope, disappearing among rocks and wild rose bushes that grew higher up.
A Dunedin resident wrote me detailing an incident of around 1973, when she was out rabbit shooting with a friend in the back hills of Bendigo, Central Otago. The young lady states she remained as lookout, perched atop a large rock while her colleague worked the valley below. Suddenly something large and black shot out of bushes below her. It ran low and fast, had a noticeably long tail and was large enough to send the young lady running nervously to join her friend.
In 1989, two young men were driving late at night near Waitahura when they saw the distinct shape of a very large cat silhouetted in the car headlights. Around that time a gentleman travelling during day time on the road between Middlemarch and Hyde saw a large animal cross the highway further ahead. He described it as being the size of a sheepdog but with a cat’s outline and gait. Although he stopped by the pile of wood cuttings the mystery animal had disappeared into, he was wary about approaching for a closer inspection!
During the 90’s and up until the present time such sightings have become more regular, especially in the Central Otago, Canterbury regions. Several of these encounters were reported in Nov 2006 issue of Investigate by Ian Wishart in his article Close Encounters Of The Furred Kind. The Australian connection was also discussed at length however this is truly a global enigma. Sightings of similar animals have been well documented throughout the UK for decades. Older readers will recall references to the Beast of Bodmin, the Surrey Puma, the Exmoor and Basingstoke Beasts. To this day sightings are routinely being reported in Ireland and Wales in particular.
In Britain in the past 20 years, at least five mountain lions (cougars) have been either captured or shot, even close to London, and in 1988 a leopard was discovered roaming the countryside, before it too was shot.
Although less common, large cats have also been seen in mainland Europe, sightings ranging from Sweden to France. Earlier this year French authorities mounted a search for a tiger after credible positive sightings. Tigers, of course, used to roam throughout Europe but are now thought to be confined to Siberia.
Even the island of Hawaii is not exempt. A rash of sightings in 2003 led to the visit of an employee of the Arizona Fish and Game department in an effort to capture the elusive black beast. Needless to say he was not successful.
You may ask how so large an animal can survive hidden in our society today, being seen only on rare occasions. Members of the cat family can be extremely furtive, their camouflaged colouring enabling them to literally disappear into their surroundings. Lying flat to the ground completely still, you could walk within a metre of such an animal and be unaware of its presence. Proof of this was the discovery of a new breed of wild cat in Scotland. During the late ‘80’s three or four such unknown cats were shot and in 1988 one was caught in a fox trap by a gamekeeper.
Dubbed the Kellas cat, they have since been bred successfully in captivity, however they remain ferocious and extremely wary of humans. They have short jet black coats, slim bodies, long legs and muscular hind quarters. The upper jaw juts out beyond the lower and has protruding canines that are long and sharp.
The Ashburton Guardian has reported on several sightings down South. One worth mentioning was that of Jessica Sculley who in September 2006 witnessed a rare, two cat sighting. A resident of Wakanui, Jessica was delivering her two young sons to school when she noticed two very large black cats in a sheep paddock. The sheep bunched up and bolted, the sudden movement causing the cats to take off, disappearing in to a line of roadside trees. They were described as being not as large as Labradors but at least as tall as a foxy. Their gait however was described as a powerful trot rather than a lope and they had the telltale long, thick tail of other mystery black cats. Were these merely two exceedingly large feral cats?
Another Guardian article reports that in October the previous year, Mt Somer resident Mrs Andrea Thompson watched a large black cat dragging a lamb for about 20 metres, all the while being pursued by the ewe which was bleating and headbutting the would be sheepnapper! It only released its victim when Mrs Thompson yelled and screamed at it, leaping over a one metre high fence to escape.
One of the rarer, cougar type sightings was reported to have occurred in Queenstown during September 2004. Grant Carter, an Australian tourist was out on the balcony of his room at the Heritage hotel late one evening. His attention was drawn to something apparently tan-coloured walking up the scrub covered slope next to the hotel. Focussing on it, he noted it was the size of a Labrador but with the movement of a cat. Thankfully it took no notice of a passing pedestrian and disappeared in to the night.
It appears little known that there have also been a handful of big cat sightings north of Cook Strait. In October 1980 police received several reports of a large, marmalade, lion-sized animal in scrub covered farmland near Newlands, Wellington. One of the observers later retracted his statement and declared it to be just a large cat although it was invariably described by others as the size of an alsation dog.
Later, in December of 1994, Tawa resident Ross Pedlar found it difficult to believe his eyes when looking out his kitchen window early one morning. There, sitting in the branches of a nearby tree was an extremely large fawn coloured cat which he thought to be a puma! It remained there as he hurriedly phoned the police but it eventually wandered off in to nearby bush. Ross described the animal as standing as tall as a person’s shoulders. The surrounding area was searched without success by police and armed offenders. This incident was reported nationally on radio news bulletins as well as being reported in the Wellington Evening Post.
Some time around the early 1970’s two friends went to a Hawkes Bay firing range for a little target practice. Imagine their surprise when, after firing the first volley, an extremely large cat-like animal scarpered up the steep bank at the rear of the target area, disappearing in to trees on the ridge. Another couple believe they may have seen the same creature outside their residence one evening shortly after and on another occasion crossing the highway.
Other as yet unconfirmed sightings have been reported in Northland and the lower Coromandel areas.
More information, much of it previously unreported, has recently been forthcoming following the Dunedin, June premiere of a half hour documentary Prints Of Darkness. This edited version of many hours of interviewing big cat witnesses, was produced by Dunedin film maker Mark Orton and his able assistant Pip Walls. Initially a skeptic, Mark is now caught up in the excitement of the hunt for the mystery big cats although he is convinced that many of the sightings can be attributed to a breeding colony of oversized feral cats. He concedes however that there still remain a number of sightings that do not seem to fit this category. Due to public demand, another public screening of the documentary was made to a receptive audience in Ashburton in July. Mark is presently seeking funding to enable the creation of a much longer movie in which he will be able to present all the new information.
- IAN LUCAS
FURTHER INFORMATION: (BOX)
You can obtain a DVD copy of Prints Of Darkness for just $18.00 Check out Mark’s website for a preview and contact details www.printsofdarkness.co.nz
Inevitably there will be more sightings of these elusive creatures and, now that video and digital cameras are common accessories, it is hoped that more and better quality footage will eventually be forthcoming to help better identify the animals and convince the remaining sceptics of the validity of this enigma. This writer hopes that such a feline is not shot although this would be understandable if it was worrying stock. Meanwhile, the mystery remains unsolved.
You can contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org . Both myself and Investigate Magazine welcome any new information .
Prints of Darkness - The Aftermath
When reflecting on how the film Prints of Darkness evolved I will have to be honest and say that it very nearly didn’t happen in its present form. As a student searching for a documentary topic for my Post Graduate course in Natural History Filmmaking; I figured that a story detailing the eco-damage of New Zealand’s feral cats might be a little interesting, but it would need a hook. Already fascinated with strange cat sightings in The United Kingdom and Australia, I turned to our own beast of the backcountry as a possible accessory to the story. The trouble was, nobody wanted to hear about nasty little feral cats, the question I was constantly asked was “What do you think the black cat is”?
I was a little sceptical, well actually a lot sceptical, but I didn’t want to be remembered as the Buzz Aldrin of Dunedin. In other words, this was a prime opportunity to make the first documentary on this intriguing phenomenon. Furthermore, I still couldn’t shake the grainy image of a large black cat slinking through Al Kircher’s 2006 photos taken near Winterslow Station, home to some of the most credible sightings to date.
Linking up with Pip Walls as my film-partner in crime, we set about researching the story from where all good projects start, Google. It quickly transpired that not only was the available information sketchy at best, in many cases it simply didn’t fit the story that we had imagined. There was nothing else for it; we would have to immerse ourselves in the cat epicentre over the summer of 2006/7. Taking a trip down inland scenic route 72, our base became the appropriately named Panther’s Rock Tavern in Mayfield.
Our first major research pit-stop was always going to be Al Kircher’s place in Methven. In our minds, his photos are the best evidence yet that something sinister was stalking the back country. With his best Khaki’s on and the notoriously generous Mid-Canterbury hospitality that we came to rely on, Al entertained our hair-brained film idea; even the part about filming him next to the spot where the photo was taken. Little did we know what rugged country it was and that the last time Al had been out there was in a helicopter.
After four hours of Matagauri spikes, river crossings, bush crashing and shingle slides we made it to the spot and were not disappointed. From our calculations with a tape measure and a series of photos, we were able to bring some scale to the images and clarify for ourselves that the feline object in Al’s photograph was significantly larger than any cat that should, by rights, be living wild in New Zealand.
Not only did this convince us that we might be onto something, but shortly afterwards the Christchurch Press and the Ashburton Guardian ran pieces about our research and our inbox ran hot. With some maps, pins and old fashioned research tools we refined our area of interest, ‘or the crime scene’ as we referred to it and drew up a list of questions to answer.
From the exhaustive phone conversations conducted over two weeks in November 2006 a definite pattern and similarity between sightings started to emerge.
The most interesting points were:
1. Almost unanimously black in colour (but not always)
2. Almost always occurred in winter and just after a fresh snowfall.
3. The ‘Cat’ had a very long bushy ‘tubular’ tail
4. The cat moved with a long loping stride and very fast
5. Sightings were clustered over a 30 year period with records of sightings back as far as the 1920s.
Now, while there were many other details of significance that would crop up again we focused on these points and started to re-visit our catalogue of sightings with greater rigour and tighter criteria. After this process we still had 16 very credible sightings (some supported with secondary evidence) that stretched from the 1970s to August 2006. This was quite interesting as many officials that we interviewed on this subject insisted it was a recent phenomenon that only came to light in the mid-1990s.
Totally obsessed with the task at hand we ploughed through everything we could lay our hands on and some very interesting material surfaced. Way too much for the 24 minute film that we had to deliver. However, that did not stop us filming enough to elaborate on the subject if there is enough interest to warrant a longer version of the film at some stage.
After spending a lot of time talking with witnesses on the phone and then putting them in front of the camera we decided that, yes, there definitely are big cats living in the New Zealand backcountry. While it would be much more convenient to have just ‘one’ phantom cat, we had to conclude that this was simply not possible because of three major points.
1. The life span of a big cat in the wild is 15-20 years at best
2. The distance travelled for hunting or mating is huge (150-200 kilometres in a week) but we were dealing with an even bigger area than that.
3. The cats being reported were not all the same colour.
However, the fact still remained that credible people had seen something extraordinary. What was it and would the various theories, speculations and urban myths stand up to some serious interrogation?
We set about finding answers to questions that were constantly asked but never investigated.
1. We tested the escaped circus legend and found an intriguing story related to an escaped cat in the mid-80s. (never substantiated)
2. What about border control and possible illegal importations? Once again, no one is going to own up to an illegal importation though we do have on record a wildlife expert speculating on very relaxed importation conditions up to 15 years ago. Furthermore, MAF failed to provide us with a record that they supposedly keep of circus/zoo/game park animals entering or leaving N.Z.
3. We contacted workers at two defunct privately owned game parks in the South Island to get an idea of what cats they had. There were leopards, lions, jaguars and even a bobcat but no ‘black’ pumas or jaguars, the two cats that are commonly associated with the name ‘Black Panther’
4. Genetics experts were interviewed to test the theory that the cat might be a feral cat with a form of gigantism.
5. We spent time with DOC trapping feral cats to see if there was any co-relation with their work and the sightings we were testing.
6. We analysed records from the turn of the century where farmers and miners were known to import certain cats from the U.K. to help contain the rodent and emerging rabbit problem. We discovered information suggesting that bobcats and lynx were imported and that the feral cats sighted in the wild were getting so large that dogs were not game to approach them.
7. Was there enough food to sustain a big cat? Was there any evidence of fresh kills or loss of stock? The answer was yes to both questions, we managed to obtain some quite gruesome photos of mauled sheep and had noticed big numbers of rabbits/hares and birds in the areas where cat sightings had occurred.
With all this information we were dangerous, but as they say in film-making parlance, you have to ‘kill your darlings’. Certain sequences and scenes would have to remain as digital files. With limited time available to flesh out any of these issues, we concentrated on a film that would educate the lay person about the circumstances and let the viewer meet some of the ordinary people with extraordinary tales to tell. With that decision made, we could introduce the viewer to a couple of pieces of secondary evidence that we had beaten the sensationalist media to.
While interviewing Sarah and Blair Gallagher at their property in Mt Somers (the site of truck driver Chad Stewart’s very credible 2003 sighting) we discovered that Sarah had kept a sample of black hair attached to the fence that the cat had leapt over. Her efforts to discover what animal the hair had come from fell on deaf ears at MAF so we took the task on.
Similarly, just over the ridge in nearby Staveley, Hamish Bruce was in the process of building his new house when he noticed some very large freshly made paw prints with no discernable claw marks. We were keen to learn more and sent the photos overseas to two big cat experts who were guiding us. Their comments were very interesting.
Furthermore, while we were filming in Mayfield at the home of Andrea Thompson who had seen a cat attacking a lamb, we were contacted by a hunter who had seen a very large cat that had, in his own words, “put the wind up him and his hunting companions”. Seeing as he was only a short trip along the inland scenic route we made a date to meet at a local pub and have a yarn. What transpired was most interesting. Not only was the conviction in their story captivating, but their associate Ben Bell mentioned that he could remember talk in the area that there was a plan to release cougars into the Canterbury foothills to control Deer.
With our bullshit detectors now fully honed, we quickly dispatched it to the boundary. However, when reviewing the tape back in Dunedin, I decided to look through the Canterbury newspaper archives out of curiosity, and to my great surprise I discovered that Ben’s memory had in fact been spot on. While we are undoubtedly happy that the story we ended up telling has attracted a lot of positive media attention and has recently been nominated for an award at the Documentary New Zealand Film Festival, we have uncovered additional information that we are sure the public would find fascinating.
While we were in the final throws of editing, something happened that we simply couldn’t ignore. Through our new found celebrity, a Central Otago landowner found my contact details on the Internet and phoned me up to report a sighting that was possibly one of the best in terms of detail, and it gets better. Close-by, he discovered bird and sheep carcasses, claw makes on trees and posts and fresh scat. As he was new to this (I mean, who do you call when you think you have just seen a Puma?), he asked my advice. I put him in contact with MAF and sent images of the scat, claw marks and other detail overseas. The initial response from the local authorities was less than helpful, until they received the scat.
My contact in the United Kingdom confirmed that the scat and claw marks were consistent with a big cat. Furthermore, when the scat was finally analysed in New Zealand it was confirmed as cat scat and a professional hunter was dispatched to the property to see if he could gather some ‘conclusive’ evidence. Adding fuel to the speculation, the same landowner (who wishes to remain anonymous) and his wife spotted what appeared to be the same cat again.
While nothing has been shot yet, the landowner has invested in surveillance equipment to see if he can do what has yet to be done in New Zealand, capture moving images of the mysterious cat.
And still, the phone calls kept coming with further information to follow up. It would be fair to say that at this point we are worn out with the constant questions and analysis of our film topic. But, the lid simply would not fit back on the can of worms. Out of the blue a handwritten manuscript of a book detailing one man’s life tracking cats in the Waimakiriri Gorge turned up. Complete with photos and map/grid references, the detail is so astonishing that it has caused us to re-evaluate the history of Mystery Cat sightings in New Zealand. Furthermore, with flagging spirits now revived; we have the impetus to complete the process by pitching a longer version of the story to broadcasters and funding bodies. Watch this space.
December 12, 2007
The Key Questions, 09 December 07
National leader John Key's weekly interview with Investigate editor Ian Wishart is now online, here
December 08, 2007
Police Minister duped by bent cop: July 07 issue
KING DUPED BY BENT COP
Major Embarrassment for Police Minister
When Investigate called for a Commission of Inquiry last month, former Dunedin cop Peter Gibbons sprang to the Government’s and Howard Broad’s rescue. But now IAN WISHART reveals damning new information about Gibbons and police corruption, in another special report that now implicates the ACC corporation in Dunedin police misconduct as the shockwaves spread
The political fallout from Investigate’s special report on police corruption is about to get a whole lot worse, with confirmation that Police Minister Annette King and Prime Minister Helen Clark staked their own reputations on the testimony of a man who now turns out to be a corrupt cop.
When Investigate’s major story broke last month, the news media were quickly introduced to former Dunedin police officer Peter Gibbons, who told reporters the Investigate story about widespread corruption was “rubbish”, and that police commissioner Howard Broad had not watched the infamous bestiality movie referred to in the article.
Gibbons – now a Dunedin private investigator – provided information to Police Minister Annette King urging her to name a rival private investigator, Wayne Idour, as the man who brought the bestiality movie to Howard Broad’s party in the 1980s.
Gibbons’ testimony created a media firestorm and was used in a massive political offensive to defame and discredit Idour and, by implication, Investigate magazine’s call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the NZ Police.
At the time, Investigate already had Gibbons in its sights as an alleged corrupt officer, but our inquiries had not been completed and cross-checked for accuracy. So, for a month, Investigate has stayed silent.
Now, however, we can reveal that Investigate views Peter James Gibbons as one of the more bent police officers we’ve come across, based on the evidence assembled here, an officer who not only appears to have committed perjury by lying to a judge in a court trial, but who has also been captured on audiotape justifying police corruption and privately endorsing a group of officers who chose to lie to an official inquiry. Gibbons has been accused in affidavits supplied to Investigate of behaviour including tipping off drug dealers in advance of police raids, and corruptly obtaining police search warrants from his police constable son-in-law to help him fulfill lucrative commercial contracts as a private investigator working for a major government organization.
The irony – that the government and Police National Headquarters brushed off the need for a Royal Commission by relying on the word of a bent cop – will become chillingly apparent over the next few pages. But first, a look at the substance of Gibbons’ spin campaign against Idour and Investigate.
The first most people really heard was National Radio’s Morning Report, when host Geoff Robinson interviewed Police Minister Annette King. Although Gibbons had been interviewed the previous day sticking up for Howard Broad, he had not gone as far publicly as the Police Minister was about to.
“Geoff, yesterday you had a man on your show who stood up for Howard Broad, who worked with him. I spoke to that man yesterday,” said King.
“He gave me the name of the person who took the film – it’s actually a film – to Howard Broad’s house. He gave me the name of the person, the same person, who played the film, and the same person is the person who’s been hawking the story around the news media.
“The person, on your show, and I’m quite sure if you were to ring him he would confirm this, is Mr Idour.
“I am told by the same man that was on your show that when Mr Idour played the film that most people walked out of the room in disgust. They didn’t want to see it, leaving Mr Idour with very few people but himself to watch it.”
That last comment alone should have been enough to sound warning bells in the ears of intelligent listeners – the idea that boozed-up police at a rugby fundraiser walked out rather than watch a porn film that included a bestiality scene with a chicken.
National Radio’s Robinson asked the Minister how Peter Gibbons had ended up sticking up for Broad.
“Mr Broad spoke with people that he’d known in Dunedin at the time to go over his memory of events,” replied King.
Acknowledging that his question might appear “cynical”, Geoff Robinson queried the sequence of events, saying, “Certainly the names [of police prepared to support Broad] were provided to us by Police HQ, which raises the question of whether there was some concerted campaign by Police –”
“I doubt whether Howard Broad would be involved in some sort of concerted campaign,” interjected King.
Increasingly, however, that’s how it is looking. And if Police National HQ introduced Peter Gibbons to the Minister of Police, then to all practical effect PNHQ set up their own Minister to take an embarrassing fall if the true facts about Gibbons ever emerged.
With Wayne Idour’s name publicly besmirched as a bestiality-purveyor by the Minister of Police on National Radio, the media went wild. Peter Gibbons appeared on radio and TV interviews, telling the same carefully-constructed story. Note how the wording is deliberately strong and rehearsed as if to underline his credibility as a witness:
“Wayne Idour played that movie, Wayne Idour put it on, Wayne Idour was watching it. That’s what I categorically remember. I and another person spoke to him about it. And I remember it very, very well,” Gibbons told 3 News.
Contrast his rock-solid memory, however, with his comments on National Radio’s Checkpoint programme:
“I can’t remember if it was a movie or a video, bearing in mind I can’t even remember which year it was. Wayne put that movie on, or video on, and when people saw what it was, they moved out of the room. What I can tell you Mary is myself and the Vice Captain of the team actually went and spoke to him and asked him to desist. He wanted to continue watching it and we told him he would have to watch it by himself. He watched it by himself. The party continued in another room.”
“Police Minister Annette King stands behind Gibbons,” continued the 3 News report as it led into a video clip of King:
“He told me directly, the person who brought the film to the party was Mr Idour. And Mr Idour played the film.”
It didn’t occur to many journalists that the likelihood of Wayne Idour tipping off the country’s most controversial magazine about the chicken film was nil, if he had in fact been the person who originally brought it along. After all, it was not a private screening but a party attended by about 100 men, many of them police officers.
Police Commissioner Howard Broad himself muddied the waters significantly by revealing that when he found out the movie was playing in his house, that he complained to Peter Gibbons and a fellow detective, Gordon Hunter, about it.
“I moaned about it because I just didn’t want that sort of thing being beamed onto the wall of my lounge,” Broad told the Herald.
According to Broad, and Gibbons, the party was a fundraiser for the police rugby club and the main attraction was movie reels (there were no videos in 1981) of “old Ranfurly Shield rugby games”.
One person who doesn’t buy that explanation for a nanosecond is Howard Broad’s former boss, retired Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis.
Speaking from Australia, Lewis has told Investigate that the idea of 100 police officers and their mates holding a fundraiser in 1981 by screening “old Ranfurly Shield games” on a projector is a fabrication.
Lewis says film footage of old Ranfurly Shield matches did not exist on home movie format in 1981, and the idea that 100 cops had gathered to watch a fellow policeman’s shaky home movie of an entire game is ludicrous.
He’s told Investigate he was aware of a number of similar fundraisers, and the drawcard was usually the latest pornographic movies seized by police. Like Wayne Idour, he says they were not functions normally attended by women.
He recalls on one occasion two of his junior staff, Gordon Hunter and Jim Stacey, discussing the porn movies they’d viewed at a police rugby fundraiser, and he says that may have been the one at Howard Broad’s house.
Lewis also scoffs at former Detective Peter Gibbons’ claim that everyone left the room when the movie came on.
“Is he expecting people to believe that a hundred people suddenly crammed into Howard Broad’s kitchen, and that Broad then asked Gibbons and Gordon Hunter to tell the one person in the lounge to turn the movie off, using his prime authority as the householder, but that the person in the lounge refused and neither Howard Broad nor Peter Gibbons did anything? That’s almost an even bigger indictment on their policing and decision making ability than watching the bestiality movie in the first place!”
It is also, says Lewis, impossible to believe.
The gullible Police Minister Annette King, however, fell for it hook, line and sinker.
“Mr Gibbons is well known in Dunedin, I’m told, highly respected. He is prepared to back what he said. I think it’s now up to who people believe and I personally believe Mr Gibbons.”
King wasted no time upping the ante, either. Under the cloak of Parliamentary privilege she launched a stinging attack on the credibility of Wayne Idour and Investigate magazine:
“The modus operandi of that magazine is to base a story on a half-truth, and from that to build an entire menu of fantasies. There was a party in Dunedin in 1981. There was an objectionable pornographic film shown at it. The basis for the story came from information provided about the party by an unknown person. Mr Wishart said that he did not identify the informant at the time, because the informant had a sick family member. When has Mr Wishart ever given a damn about the family members of his targets?”
For the record, Investigate has withheld information about some political figures from publication because of concern for their families, nor did we conduct a major investigation into how Police Minister Annette King’s daughter crashed a ministerial vehicle containing illegal drugs. Also, for the record, the “sick” family member King refers to was dying, and the Minister knew it when she chose only to call him “sick”. Investigate had issued a news release explaining that the man was terminally ill. For the record, Idour’s close relative died two days after Annette King’s callous attack in parliament.
“His informant was outed,” King continued in parliament, “and subsequently Wayne Idour has had to own up. That man was a former police officer in Dunedin. He is the same man who was employed by the Exclusive Brethren to dig up dirt on the Prime Minister and on Labour MPs and their families. He is a proven liar. Wayne Idour lied to TV3 about working for the Brethren, and I believe he is now lying again. I believe he is lying when he says he did not take the bestiality movie to the party. I believe he lied when he said he did not show the pornographic film. I believe he lied when he said he saw Howard Broad watching it.”
Again, for the record, Wayne Idour is arguably a “proven liar” only in regard to one event – distancing himself from the Exclusive Brethren. As a matter of historical fact, however, Idour was not hired by the Brethren but by an Auckland private investigator who did not disclose the identity of the clients to Idour until well down the path of the investigation. Nor was Idour employed to follow the Prime Minister or Peter Davis – another common error made by politicians and the media.
Peter Gibbons’ dishonesty, however, is far more serious and includes giving false testimony, on oath, to a court, as you will read shortly. The people who ultimately relied on “a proven liar” are the Minister of Police herself, and Prime Minister Helen Clark.
And it’s not as if Gibbons’ motives were not transparent to others.
“In my view Peter Gibbons has a vested interest,” Tom Lewis told Investigate. “He’s a close mate of Broad’s, and he also gets a lot of his private detective work from Dunedin Police. So it’s in Gibbons’ best interests to support the police on this.”
Gibbons’ relationship with Dunedin Police is, in literal fact, incestuous. Although Gibbons had to leave the force 10 years ago and set up in business as a private investigator, his daughter Melissa became a police officer and subsequently married another young cop named Andrew Henderson, who transferred to Dunedin.
Investigate stumbled across this relationship during a thorough search of Gibbons’ property transactions, which included a number of sales and purchases involving the AW and MA Henderson Family Trust, which Peter Gibbons is a trustee on. Recognising it as a family trust for his daughter and son-in-law, Investigate put those documents to one side as irrelevant, until a chance comment from Dunedin man Bruce Van Essen, who’s been battling ACC, suddenly made the Henderson Family Trust centrestage again.
Van Essen had posted comments on the ACCForums website about Peter Gibbons’ work as a private investigator for ACC, and when we contacted him he remarked how Gibbons would execute police search warrants on the homes of ACC claimants, even though he was no longer a police officer.
“We think the warrants are really dodgy,” Van Essen remarked. “He must have a mate inside the police doing it for him. Besides which, it’s always the same cops who turn up to do the searches with Gibbons.”
“Really?” the magazine asked. “Who?”
“It’s a Sergeant Kindly and a young constable named Andrew Henderson. Every time. And sometimes there’s another guy, Graeme Scott, who has now left the police force and is working for Gibbons.”
When Investigate obtained copies of the police search warrants used by Gibbons to raid homes of ACC victims and seize their property, we found a direct match between the signatures of Constable Andrew Henderson on the warrants, and the signatures of Andrew Henderson we already had on a string of property purchases with Peter Gibbons.
The fact that private investigator Peter Gibbons, whose business has a lucrative $172,000 contract with the government ACC agency, is using his son-in-law in the police to draft the search warrants he needs, appears, to Investigate, to be a massive conflict of interest, and further evidence of the need for a full Royal Commission of Inquiry into police corruption. (Read the documents here,10Mb PDF file)
But it gets worse. In an affidavit provided to Investigate for review by an eminent legal entity, Van Essen discloses that the police searches were conducted outside standard police operating procedure. For example, it has been common for the police presenting the warrants to play no part in the actual searches, and instead let civilian Peter Gibbons and his private assistants search through the houses with no police supervision at all.
“The cops actually turn their backs, they don’t watch,” confirms Van Essen to Investigate.
Under New Zealand law private investigators working for anyone, including ACC, have no legal authority to search anyone’s house, as powers of search and seizure are tightly regulated under ancient common law and the Bill of Rights Act, as well as the Police Act itself.
Section 6 of the Police Act specifically forbids any non-sworn (civilian) person carrying out any of the powers and duties of a sworn police officer without explicit written authority from Police Commissioner Howard Broad, and that written authority must be carried by the civilian at all times and presented to householders if requested, Gibbons had no such authority from his friend, Howard Broad.
Three Dunedin residents have sworn affidavits about Gibbons executing search warrants in the company of Graeme Scott and Constable Andrew Henderson, along with irregularities in the search warrants. On one occasion the ACC corporation replied to a complaint by blaming the irregularity – a reference to a false declaration – on a “cut and paste” error by a police typist.
Let’s take a closer look at that “cut and paste” error.
On a search warrant dated 31 August 2006, police are authorized to search premises occupied by Bruce Van Essen at a Dunedin primary school because:
“There is a reasonable ground for believing that there is (are) in any building, aircraft, ship, carriage, vehicle, box, receptacle, premises or place at Abbotsford Primary School, 72 North Taieri Road, Dunedin, the following thing(s), namely:
“…documentary evidence, however, held either manually or electronically stored including computer hard drives, bank statements, invoices [etc]..”
The chances of finding a jumbo jet or a ship in the playground at Abbotsford school were remote, but having identified the kind of things the police were to seek, the warrant had to specify on what grounds, in other words, what law was suspected of being broken that justified a search.
The warrant spelt out that the grounds against Van Essen were:
“…Upon or in respect of which an offence of Making a false statutory declaration using a document for pecuniary gain has been or is suspected of having been committed…
“Or which there is reasonable ground to believe will be evidence as to the commission of an offence of Making a false statutory declaration using a document for pecuniary gain…
“Or which there is a reasonable ground to believe is intended to be used for the purpose of committing an offence of [blank].”
In other words, the justification for the entire search warrant hinged on an allegation that Van Essen had made a false statutory declaration.
This was the warrant served by Gibbons’ son-in-law, Constable Andrew Henderson, who then allowed Gibbons – a civilian and private investigator working for private financial gain – to ransack Van Essen’s premises and rack-up billable hours to the government owned ACC. If anyone was using a document for pecuniary gain, it was Gibbons.
Documents obtained by Investigate and signed by Constable Henderson show the warrant was executed a week later, on 8 September 2006.
So where was this false statutory declaration to ACC that Van Essen had purportedly made, and which the search warrant was based on? It didn’t exist, and the ACC confirmed this in a series of letters earlier this year.
In a further letter dated 3 May this year, acting ACC CEO, Dr Keith McLea told Van Essen:
“You raise issues about the search warrant. I understand the police typist preparing the affidavit made a ‘cut and paste’ error in good faith and failed to remove a passage from a previous search warrant template. I am satisfied that this kind of minor error would not have affected the validity of the warrant.”
Really? Try removing the clauses about a statutory declaration above, and see what kind of grounds you are left with.
Van Essen also tried to get a copy of the affidavit supposed to have been filed in support of obtaining the search warrant. Such an affidavit would presumably have spelt out in detail the nature of the now non-existent statutory declaration. Within the police, the task of responding to the Official Information Act request seemed to bypass the official channels and land on the desk of Peter Gibbons son-in-law, Andrew Henderson, a mere constable. OIA requests are supposed to be processed by ranking officers.
“In response to your request for a copy of the affidavit supporting the application of a search warrant, this is declined…the matter is an ongoing investigation and the affidavit will not be released.”
Henderson is not the only Dunedin police officer in the frame for alleged misconduct.
Graeme Scott’s involvement may also be a breach of police regulations, and further evidence of the kind of corruption requiring a Commission of Inquiry. It is an absolute breach of police rules for any sworn police officer to be involved in private investigation work. But Investigate has obtained documents showing Detective Sergeant Scott was listed by the ACC as one of its investigators in September 2006. When Investigate called the Dunedin Central Police station and asked when Scott had left the police, the operator told us, “Detective Sergeant Scott left the police earlier this year ”.
If true, that would put Scott, Gibbons, Dunedin Police and the ACC in the gun for a massive breach of police conduct.
But independent of Van Essen and the others, Investigate has discovered another case, where Gibbons allegedly impersonated a police officer, and failed to disclose he was working for the ACC.
“On 6th May 1998 I received a telephone call at my former employer BNZ from my husband, to say that the police were at the house and I had better come home,” Dunedin woman Kathryn Dawe told Investigate.
“On arriving home my [then] husband had been arrested and was being taken to the Dunedin Police station for questioning in relation to a large quantity of cannabis that was located in a room attached to the garage at 159 Ashmore Street.
“The police officers I recall seeing were Detective John Ferguson, Detective Greg Dunne and another unnamed officer. They were in the garage at the property. There was a fourth person (male).
“I was inside the lounge with our then 14 month old son and recall a tall male standing by the sliding door who started asking me questions. I asked him who he was and his words were, ‘My name is Peter Gibbons. I am a police officer and we have found a lot of drugs in your garage.’ He said he was with the Dunedin Police executing a search warrant.
“I asked to see the drugs and was told by the police officer, Peter Gibbons, that I knew what was in the garage. The officer I was speaking to (Gibbons), I describe as a tall, white male, fairly solidly built, about 5’10”-5’11”. He had brown hair and what I remember most was his moustache. It was light brown and curled up at the edges. Hair thinning on top. He was blunt to the point of rudeness,” says Dawe.
“I accepted that he was a member of the NZ police. I never asked for any identification from any of the officers and no identification was presented to me.
“Mr Gibbons asked me questions about our personal finances and was shown details of bank records, hire purchase payments, car payments, to offer him assistance with his inquiry.
“Mr Gibbons also requested the keys to my vehicle and as it was parked in the driveway he conducted a search in my vehicle. Mr Gibbons also searched the lounge and kitchen areas of my home.
“Peter Gibbons gave me the search warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act when I left the property. The warrant was executed under the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Social Security Act 1964 and issued to the Dunedin Police Station. Gibbons was fully active in the search of my property while I was at home.”
Kathryn Dawe says she told her husband’s lawyer, Anne Stevens, about the obnoxious police officer but “could only recall his name being Peter”. The lawyer rang police who initially denied that any police officer named Peter was involved in the search and that the man Dawe spoke to was Detective Greg Dunne.
“It was later revealed through the [legal] disclosure process that the person speaking to me was in fact Peter Gibbons who was at the property on the request of ACC to investigate Craig [Harris, Dawe’s then husband] for ACC related matters.”
After being released from prison, Dawe then set about trying to get Gibbons’ private investigator’s licence revoked on the grounds that he had impersonated a police officer to obtain information that she would otherwise not have provided him with.
“I complained twice, possibly three times, 2001, 2002 and possibly 2003. In the end I gave up because Mr Gibbons had the support of two or three members (current and former) of the Dunedin CIB. The matter was not sent to a hearing and I was never able to verbally put my case forward.”
The complaints were made to the Registrar of Private Investigators and Security Guards in Auckland, but surprisingly no action was taken. Surprising, because the only grounds the Registrar has for avoiding a hearing, under s24 of the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, is “if no notices of objections to the grant of the application have been filed”.
Section 66 of the Act specifically lays out that private investigators are not allowed to “either orally or in writing claim, suggest or imply that, by virtue of his licence, certificate of approval, occupation, or business, he has any power or authority that he does not in law have; or (b) Use or attempt to use his licence…for the purpose of exercising, claiming, suggesting or implying such a power or authority; or (c) Either orally or in writing describe or refer to himself as a detective or by any other expression or term containing the word ‘detective’; or (d) Wear any article of clothing, badge or other article that is likely to cause any member of the public to believe that the holder of the licence or certificate of approval is a member of the Police.”
When Investigate contacted the office of the Registrar of Private Investigators earlier this month, the file on Peter Gibbons was “missing”, according to office staff.
“Is that usual?” we asked.
“No, the file should be there,” the office manager confirmed. She added that a complaint has recently been received about Gibbons.
Peter Gibbons has had a long career in the police, entering in the early 70s and perfing in 1997 for reasons we are still investigating. He is well schooled in the fine arts of giving compelling evidence in court, and training younger cops what to say and what not to say.
Gibbons told NZPA last month that he was telling the truth about Wayne Idour being the man who brought the bestiality movie along.
“I wouldn’t have said that if I wasn’t prepared to swear an affidavit or go into any court in the land and say it.”
But there’s strong evidence that Gibbons is a man who is even prepared to lie in court, making his word utterly worthless.
In 1988 an undercover police officer using the name “Brent Stace” testified in the trial of an arrested man that the suspect (who we’ll call ‘John Doe’) had been a “target” for the police operation, codenamed “Sub Rosa”, even before it began in early February 1987.
Doe was a second hand dealer who owned a car wrecking yard in Dunedin. The city was undergoing a bit of a car theft epidemic in the mid 80s, and popular wisdom within some in the police was that John Doe must have had something to do with it. In fact, as the evidence you’ll read suggests, the real mastermind was a man named Bob Wood, who just happened to be a good friend of a popular Dunedin police officer. And it was Wood that police used to help set up John Doe. Wood would offer drugs and other items to targets, and ask them to onsell them to his mate, undercover cop Brent Stace.
“I was made aware of him [John Doe] at the beginning of the operation…the police were interested in him,” Stace told the court, on oath.
“Were you made aware,” asked the suspect’s lawyer, “that he had no previous criminal convictions?”
“No,” said Stace, “because I am sure he has got one.”
“So you have seen a list of his convictions?”
“Yes,” confirmed the undercover cop.
What’s interesting is that the 37 year old suspect, John Doe, had virtually no criminal record at all, just one conviction for a minor theft at the age of 17 – twenty years earlier – for which he received a $30 fine. That offence, in 1968, was the only record listed.
“At the beginning of the operation I saw some people’s criminal history,” Stace told the Court.
“Can you recall who showed you that?” challenged the lawyer.
“Detective Sergeant Peter Gibbons, my operator. He was the operator who briefed me.”
“At that time,” continued Doe’s lawyer, “were you given the accused’s name and address as a target?”
“Yes, I was. He was disclosed to me.”
That’s the sworn testimony of “Brent Stace” – now a Christchurch businessman using his real name – back in the Dunedin District Court in 1988.
But later in the same court transcript, here’s what Gibbons had to say under cross-examination:
“When Constable Stace commenced this operation did you provide him with a list of names?” asked the suspect’s lawyer.
“Did you provide him with the accused’s name?”
“No. This accused was not a target at the commencement of the operation,” answered Gibbons on oath.
“When did he become a target?”
“When he offered to sell a firearm [on March 31st].”
Two men, both police officers, both with totally contradictory stories. Both giving evidence on oath. Nor is it a matter where faulty recollection is an issue. The trial was taking place less than a year after the arrest, and both police officers had had plenty of opportunity to get their stories straight. But the younger, less experienced Brent Stace was first up on the witness stand and let slip some crucial information. His recall of seeing the suspect’s prior conviction, and being made aware the man was a target, when Gibbons briefed him right at the start in early February 1987, is in stark contrast to Gibbons’ assertion that he did no such thing.
Why is it important? Because it is one thing to do an undercover operation as a fishing expedition. It is another to carry out what’s known as “entrapment”, where you attempt to set people up.
It also, of course, casts doubt on the credibility of either Peter Gibbons, or Detective Brent Stace. One of them was lying to the court, and therefore may still be prepared to lie on oath today.
If it was Brent Stace who lied on oath, then question marks now arise over his testimony that saw nearly 80 people prosecuted. Based on the evidence you are about to read in this story however, Investigate believes it is Peter Gibbons who lied on oath in the evidence given above.
Detective Gordon Hunter worked under Gibbons and is described in the court transcript as being “friends” with a criminal named Bob Wood.
Witness Pamela Philip was Wood’s de facto partner during this time and told the court they often met Hunter “on numerous occasions socially”.
“It was my understanding Bob Wood and Detective Hunter were friends.”
Philip testified on oath that she had been present in the Dunedin District Court in late 1986 when several criminal charges of receiving stolen property against Bob Wood were suddenly dropped.
“When it came time for [Bob] to take the stand, Gordon Hunter stood up and said the charges had been dropped. Gordon Hunter did this personally, he was in the courtroom.”
It was at that time that the plan for Operation Sub Rosa was being hatched, and Wood would play a substantial role in it. Police introduced Wood to their undercover detective, Brent Stace, although Stace went coy when asked in court to confirm how they met.
“Did you meet with him and any police officers directly?” questioned John Doe’s lawyer.
“I can’t answer that question,” said Stace, as the Crown lawyer stood up to object to the line of questioning.
“Did you ever meet with Detective Hunter and Mr Wood?” continued Doe’s lawyer.
“Objection!!” exclaimed the Crown lawyer again.
Regardless of how they met, it appears Detective Gordon Hunter was involved and that Wood was agreeing to help police set up a group of “targets” by introducing them to Brent Stace.
Wood’s motivation was twofold. Firstly, Gordon Hunter had dropped criminal charges that Wood was facing. And secondly, Stace’s role was to offer to purchase stolen property or drugs.
The fact that Wood was supposed to introduce Stace to targets of Operation Sub Rosa was acknowledged by Detective Sergeant Gibbons, who told the court, “Wood made introductions for Stace”.
Gibbons, as you’ve already seen, is on record as testifying on oath that John Doe was not a target until he offered to sell a gun on March 31st, eight weeks into the operation.
But look at the sworn evidence of Detective Gordon Hunter. Hunter told the court that Brent Stace made contact with Doe right at the start: “I am aware that the undercover officer met your client [John Doe] prior to any involvement with the person you refer to as Wood.”
If Doe was not a target, as Peter Gibbons claimed on oath, why did Stace make a beeline for him, as both Stace and Hunter acknowledged on oath. Gibbons’ evidence now appears to contradict not one, but two other police officers.
Nor was this the only case of lying on oath in that trial.
In a signed statement dated 27 January 1988 and obtained by Investigate, petty criminal Keith Kilner described a meeting at 15 Panmure Ave, Dunedin in August 1987, just after John Doe’s arrest. Kilner was meeting Bob Wood at the home of Wood’s new girlfriend, Sharee.
“This meeting with Bob Wood, which went on for about one hour, he (Bob Wood) offered me money and a way out for my court case. I had been arrested in Christchurch on five charges of receiving stolen goods.
“I asked Bob Wood what I would have to do.
“Bob said, ‘all you have to do is drive a truck load of Holden Commodore parts from Christchurch to Dunedin and deliver them to [John Doe’s] wrecking yard in Hope St and collect the money for the parts’.
“I asked Bob Wood why he had set me up with Bret (sic) Stace, the undercover cop.
“Bob Wood told me that he had to set me up because he was working for the police and that my name (Keith Kilner) was on a hit list of people that the police wanted busted and put behind bars.”
When Kilner asked who, within the police, Wood was working for, the latter responded:
“Detective Gordon Hunter”.
Wood explained he’d been working for Hunter “for a long time” because the Detective had him “cold on a lot of charges” and could have him in jail for a long time if he refused to cooperate.
“Bob Wood stated that Gordon Hunter said he would lose all the paperwork on those charges and all that he (Bob Wood) would have to do is set up these people on this CIB hit list and drive around with an undercover cop and introduce him as his friend Bret Stace from Auckland.
“Bob Wood told me that he had to get these people on this hit list and other people he knew to commit crimes and sell the goods to Bret Stace because that is what Hunter wanted. I asked Bob Wood what the hell’s all this got to do with [John Doe]?
“Bob Wood stated that [John Doe’s] name is on that CIB hit list and Gordon Hunter wants him real bad.”
According to Kilner’s statement, Wood confessed to setting Doe up on several occasions, most recently when he brought Doe a .38 revolver with a broken firing pin and asked him to fix it in his workshop, as well as four bags of cannabis. Wood wanted Doe to sell the lot to Brent Stace for cash.
“I asked Bob Wood who got the cash from the sale of the gun and the drugs,” says Kilner, and “Bob…told me that he (Wood) got all the cash.”
Kilner also asked where the gun and ammunition came from.
“Bob Wood told me that he had been given the gun and ammo by Gordon Hunter.”
In other words, Dunedin Police supplied a handgun to a criminal whose firearms licence had already been revoked, as part of a plan to entrap John Doe.
Kilner began to express some major reservations with Wood’s new plan to have him drive a load of Commodore parts to John Doe’s wrecking yard, saying in his statement, “I wasn’t very happy with the way this is starting to shape up.” Kilner demanded to know the origin of the Holden parts and Wood soon admitted they had come from Commodores stolen in and around Christchurch.
“I then told Bob Wood that know (sic) way am I going to bring those hot car parts into Dunedin, you are just going to set me up again. The cops would just love that.
“Bob Wood said, ‘don’t panic, I will ring Gordon Hunter and get him over here now. That way we can get Hunter to sort out your receiving charges and we can tell Hunter about you bringing those hot Commodore parts down from Christchurch’.”
Kilner told Wood he would “have to think about this”, to which Wood replied:
“Hunter doesn’t give a s**t about what I do or what laws I break as long as I set up who he wants to arrest, and he wants to put [John Doe] out of business and behind bars…so come on, give me a hand to set up [Doe] and Hunter will pull your five receiving charges and earn yourself some real easy money.”
Investigate has spoken to another of Wood’s onetime girlfriends, and she clearly remembers both Peter Gibbons and Gordon Hunter being involved with Bob Wood.
“I had met with Peter Gibbons, yeah. Gordon Hunter mainly. Peter Gibbons was just every now and again. Bob’s and Gordon Hunter’s relationship was close, they were good friends.”
Gibbons was officially Hunter’s boss. He was also running undercover cop Brent Stace. Hunter meanwhile, was running Wood. Wood supplied the bags of dope to John Doe to onsell to Brent Stace.
“The dope was stored in my cupboard until he grabbed it one day and did what he had to do with it,” remembers the former girlfriend.
One of the stories that has constantly come up from former members of the criminal fraternity (after being busted in the 80s most went on to live upwardly mobile respectable lives) is that Bob Wood was stealing cars on the instructions of Gordon Hunter, and splitting the profits.
“Wood had this arrangement where he got his boys to nick cars and store them in various garages around the city, and roughly once a week Hunter would check which cars,” one former associate of Wood’s told Investigate. “Those vehicles that were insured would be ‘found’ by police and returned via a tame insurance agent Hunter had in exchange for a finder’s fee of roughly 10%. Hunter and his insurance mate split the difference, while Bob Wood was then allowed to wreck and strip any of the stolen vehicles that didn’t have insurance company interest. So the cops were happy, the insurance agent was happy, and Bob was happy.”
There is strong speculation that the Operation Sub-Rosa decision to target car wrecker John Doe was part of a stunt to take the heat off the ‘police’ car theft ring run by Wood.
Wood’s former girlfriend agrees.
“They thought that [John] was the big guy, but I was led to believe that Bob was the big guy. Bob was the one with the briefcase with all the master keys for all the cars, he was the one that organized which cars to steal, and he sent the goonies out to get them. They came back laughing about things like, ‘Oh, that guy was sitting in his front room reading his newspaper and we just pushed the car down the street and cranked it up.’
“Then they would just wheel them into the garage, take the dog tags as they were then, and change the number plates, engine plates, sometimes spraypaint it or change a few panels here and there, then out it would go. And it was already basically pre-sold. I think they even drove them up to Christchurch to get rid of them.”
None of which, incidentally, involved John Doe.
“Then of course we were involved with the undercover police,” the girlfriend continues. “Bob initially didn’t want to tell me he was involved in an operation. He was ‘trying’ to tell me, but he wasn’t telling me. This big, big operation. So he told me to watch Scarface with Al Pacino! That’s how he saw himself!
“Anyway, Bob was skiting about that and I wasn’t to say anything to anyone. But the guy that came into our midst was Brent Stace.
“Brent came in, I already knew who he was and I was told just to act normal, that he would be mingling with us, and he would be doing everything that everybody done, like pot smoking. I wasn’t into it and I don’t think a lot of them were, but he had to carry on like that.
“Hunter and Stace took Bob to Christchurch Airport to get him out of there. When they first busted them he had to spend a night in jail, and he was offered immunity at that stage in return for squealing on everybody.”
But the number of people linking Detective Gordon Hunter to Wood and a deliberate campaign to “set up” John Doe doesn’t stop there.
A trailer was stolen from Doe’s premises by a man named Vincent Singh. The trailer was later miraculously found at Singh’s residence by Detective Gordon Hunter, but Singh was never charged. Singh stole the trailer for revenge – Hunter had earlier told him that Doe had stolen Singh’s car (Doe says Hunter was simply playing both men off against each other by lying to Singh, and certainly there’s no record of Doe ever being charged). So Singh had no particular love for John Doe, and even a kind of enmity, which is why this next piece of evidence is relevant.
Hunter left a message in August 1987 for Singh to get hold of him. This fact is not disputed, and was admitted in court. What Hunter didn’t realize is that when Singh went to see the detective, he was carrying a hidden tape recorder which captured their conversation verbatim.
On the tape, Singh asks Hunter, “Why wasn’t I charged with it?”
“Well, that’s something that we have to work out,” says Hunter.
Sensing that the threat of prosecution may still be hanging over his head, Singh asks what Hunter wants, and Hunter begins discussing John Doe.
“He’s the worst, he’d be the worst one of the whole lot…but he just hasn’t got the convictions.”
Ignoring the obvious point – that Doe may not have convictions because he may not be involved – Hunter then starts discussing what police now had on Doe:
“Somehow or another he got a whole lot of bloody grass, cause we got it all in an exhibit and we got a photograph of it, same time he had sold a bloody shooter, plus a whole lot of ammunition, and it’s a real one because I bloody test-fired the bloody thing, it goes, it’s as good as the bloody rod I carry around!”
The last statement is important, because on the tape Hunter has just admitted firing the gun sold by John Doe.
Now contrast what you’ve just read with what Hunter swore on oath in court:
“The subject of that conversation was a comical situation that I treated as a complete nonsense…in the course of that conversation I don’t recall saying to Singh that I had fired the gun…and I certainly have not fired any gun that relates to your client.”
Conflict of evidence? On tape Hunter says he fired it. In court, Hunter denies it.
Peter Gibbons, likewise, testified on oath that Gordon Hunter never fired the gun.
Back on the tape meanwhile, Vincent Singh treats Gordon Hunter’s claims about John Doe dealing drugs very skeptically:
“As you know, most people that get around in that sort of circle know what everybody else is doing. Now, I know that [John] doesn’t deal in drugs. I’m damn sure he doesn’t!” exclaimed Singh.
“Well I’m telling you he does,” retorted Hunter. “Someone who’s running guns and selling dope –”
“[John]’s not, no, [John] doesn’t deal in that stuff,” countered Singh.
“Well, what the hell’s he doing selling it?” said the police officer.
“I don’t know. He, the way I look at it, he’s been set up on that…as I said, I’ve known [John] for a while, even though we haven’t seen eye to eye, we still don’t,” said Singh. “You want to get him behind bars?”
“Right, you’re out to get him –”
“He’s got to go,” said Hunter, referring to the need to put Doe’s wrecking yard out of business. “You see, the thing is, well, if you haven’t got somebody into dealing with all the stolen goods or parts of whatever, right, there’s no motive for the thief to bloody go out and do the business, is there? …I know that he’s going to make a mistake…he’s got to go.
“I know he’s, well, he’s the rat in the trap. Like, you [Singh] haven’t been arrested in this operation and all the rest of it.”
“Yeah,” agreed Singh.
“He’s the rat that’s in the trap…and I’ll get him when he does something wrong, that’s the long and the short of it.”
Hunter then refers back to the fact he has not charged Singh with stealing the trailer, and how the “balance sheet” needs adjustment.
“Now, if I do the business [and] whoever I’m doing the business with gets the result I always pay my way. At the moment, the old balance sheet’s a wee bit round the wrong way as far as you and I are concerned,” Hunter warned Singh.
“Because you know that I’ve enough for you to be in Paparoa [prison], but what you don’t know is why.”
Hunter invited Singh to get back in contact the following week with any ideas on how Singh could help nail John Doe.
“I’ll come to wherever you are, and we’ll have a yarn and I’ll write stuff down.”
“And at the end of the day you’ll get your reward, then that will be the end of it,” said Hunter.
“Right, and you can see the man behind bars that you want to see behind bars,” replied Singh.
“That’s what the job is, isn’t it,” said Hunter.
The contents of the tape are damning when placed against Hunter’s willingness to lie on oath himself. For example, Hunter tried to tell the court that Singh was volunteering to plant drugs on John Doe:
“The man was making references to having drugs planted on this man [Doe] and I would never have anything to do with that type of conduct.”
“Are you saying Detective that this man Singh approached you and made references as to how he would plant drugs on [Doe] with police connivance?” asked Doe’s lawyer.
“That is what I say is nonsense,” confirmed Hunter on oath.
“Mr Singh came in and talked about how he would plant drugs on Mr [Doe]?” continued Doe’s lawyer, who of course had heard the secret tape recording and knew there was nothing of the kind on it.
“That is the type of nonsense that was being said,” agreed Detective Gordon Hunter.
So now there appear to be at least two “respected” Dunedin police officers who didn’t bat an eyelid about committing perjury in court.
“Were you aware that Mr Singh had some kind of recording device when he spoke to you?” asked Doe’s lawyer, probably with a wry smile.
“No, certainly not!” exclaimed Hunter.
Hunter was also questioned about the claims that he himself had supplied the cannabis to Bob Wood so that Wood could set up John Doe to sell it on Wood’ behalf to undercover cop Brent Stace.
“What would you do,” asked Doe’s lawyer, “if you heard that a police officer had supplied drugs to a civilian or a criminal person for whatever reason, a brother officer had supplied cannabis to a member of the public?”
“Depending on the amount of the drug would depend on the section [of the Act] I charged the police officer when we went to the charge room after I arrested him.”
“What about a police officer supplying a revolver to a member of the public?”
“The same rule would apply,” confirmed Hunter righteously. Possession of a pistol is an imprisonable offence and to supply that would make that person liable for conviction.”
Yet here are two police officers, Gordon Hunter running Bob Wood, and Peter Gibbons running Brent Stace. Wood miraculously obtains a gun and four bags of cannabis from somewhere, asks John Doe to fix the gun and sell it and the drugs on his behalf to Stace, the agent being run by Peter Gibbons. The court record clearly shows that Wood and Stace were working as a tag team, and the hidden tape recording and witness statements clearly show Gordon Hunter wanted to nail John Doe. Detective Brent Stace confirmed on oath he’d been asked by Peter Gibbons to target John Doe right at the beginning of the operation, while Peter Gibbons – in Investigate’s view – committed the worst form of lying possible: perjury in front of a judge. Forget lying to TV3 about the Exclusive Brethren – Wayne Idour’s supposed crime. Lying on oath in court is the ultimate taboo, the sign of a person whose word can never be trusted on any occasion.
And Peter Gibbons, readers will recall, is the Dunedin private investigator who urged Police Minister Annette King to wrongly name rival Dunedin private investigator Wayne Idour as the man who brought a bestiality movie to Police Commissioner Howard Broad’s party.
Investigate is aware of threats that as many as 40 former and current Dunedin police officers “are prepared to swear affidavits” contradicting what the magazine has published and that Idour was the source of the bestiality movie.
Given what Investigate has now uncovered involving the willingness of police to lie on oath, any affidavits sworn by any current or former Dunedin police are probably worthless in the public eye.
And just to reinforce the lack of police credibility on any of this now, Investigate is releasing portions of a taped conversation between Peter Gibbons and former undercover officer Peter Williamson, whose story later featured in the book Stoned on Duty by Bruce Ansley.
The two men were discussing an internal inquiry into the police undercover programme by senior police officer Bruce Scott in 1993. As the man tasked with training undercover cops in the South Island, Peter Gibbons could be considered an expert on the topic. On the subject of lying to cover your backside, Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Gibbons is heard justifying the actions of police officers who lied to an official inquiry:
“What you have to then accept is that when those guys got interviewed, their jobs, or they would have perceived their jobs and so on were at stake, so they would not tell the truth when they got interviewed by Scott.”
On the subject of stealing official documents, Gibbons admits on tape trying to induce a Police National Headquarters worker to send him an advance copy of the Scott report, even though PNHQ had expressly forbidden Gibbons from seeing it:
“I rung Helen, because Helen has done wee jobs for me for years, and I thought I’d slip a copy through the back door and get a look at this thing you see, so I rang Helen and said, ‘Look, don’t tell anyone, just get me this report and send one down to me’. Well, she must have been ferreting around and someone must have seen her and she got the big handsmack and got told, ‘he is not to get that report!’
“So she was told, you do not send that down to Gibbons!”
Further on in the tape, undercover agent Williamson criticizes a senior police figure:
“I suspect he’s not an honest man, I suspect he is manipulating this inquiry in the interests of the department.”
“Well that’s what they’re all going to do,” admits Peter Gibbons, “that’s what you have to accept.”
“I call that corruption, that’s what,” protests Peter Williamson.
“Well,” continues Gibbons, “the bottom line is this, and I would say that no matter who runs it…that’s always going to be the end result: the department will look after the department first.”
“Well I consider people, undercover agents, more important than the department,” counters Williamson. “I’m not so naïve as to think that the department can run without any form of corruption Peter, I’m not so naïve as to think that, but when the casualties of that corruption are directly related to cops f***ing up then, I’m, I cannot sit back and accept it unfortunately.”
Then follows a priceless line from Peter Gibbons:
“…I’m ingrained into the system and can’t see it from an outside perspective, but the bottom line as I see it is the department is always going to whitewash the department.”
Classic. “The department is always going to whitewash the department”. And this from the man who last month told Police Minister Annette King there was no need for an inquiry into Dunedin Police and Investigate’s “laughable” allegations:
“The general public shouldn’t be asked to believe that sort of stuff. The call should not be for an inquiry into police conduct in the Dunedin CIB in the 1980s because you get some [person] saying that.”
So that’s Peter Gibbons’ view.
On the other hand, Investigate has been collecting affidavits of its own on behalf of an eminent legal figure who will review our evidence in favour of a Commission of Inquiry. One of those affidavits is from a contractor who worked on a home belonging to the sister of Peter Gibbons when she lived at 17 Slant Street in Carey’s Bay, just north of Dunedin in the early 1980s. Other residents of the house included Peter Gibbons’ brother.
“I became aware very quickly that drugs were a feature in this house,” says our witness in a sworn affidavit, “as the occupants offered me marijuana and speed called Benzedrine. I declined the offer. I still remember the smell of the house and it stunk of marijuana. They mainly smoked joints. I noticed that their eyes were dilated most of the time.
“There was a flurry of activity and cleaning one day when I went out there in the morning…[Peter Gibbons’ sister] said that her brother, Peter Gibbons, had phoned to say the Police were going to raid the house for drugs. The Police subsequently came and searched the house…the afternoon of the same day that Peter Gibbons phoned, and the Police did not find any of the drugs.
“[Peter Gibbons’ sister] stated to me on several occasions that Peter Gibbons would phone her and pre-warn her if the Police were going to raid the house for drugs. She told me that Peter Gibbons saved their arse on a number of occasions.
“[The siblings] made comments that it was helpful having a brother on the Police force to keep them out of trouble.”
Remember, this is the same Peter Gibbons running Operation Sub Rosa, and the same Peter Gibbons being relied on by Police National Headquarters and Prime Minister Helen Clark to discredit Investigate’s story last month and our call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the police.
It is worth noting that Gibbons’ brother Tony was a pro-marijuana reform advocate.
The affidavit continues:
“I saw Peter Gibbons brother on a number of occasions deal drugs to people outside and inside of the house. They would arrive at the house and I saw money and drugs change hands. I also dropped Peter Gibbons’ brother into town one day, he told me that he was going to sell marijuana to people who were attending a function.”
The magazine has confirmed that the house at 17 Slant St was indeed a drug house, and a former associate of the Gibbons family has also noted that on the one occasion police arrested and charged Peter Gibbons’ sister on drugs offences some years later, an error in the paperwork resulted in the charges being withdrawn. The same associate, now a respected citizen, also recalls Tony Gibbons discussing Benzedrine, the early form of speed mentioned by our first informant.
Among others we spoke to was another underworld figure, now a businessman, who is prepared to testify to a Royal Commission of Inquiry that police “shorted” drugs seized as evidence, criminal slang for a procedure where corrupt cops seize drugs and either don’t enter it into the record at all, or otherwise remove a quantity of drugs from the deal bags before they are submitted and weighed as evidential exhibits.
The drugs are then sold by underworld figures like Bob Wood, controlled by police, with profits split between police and the drug dealer.
“I wasn’t any angel myself back then,” the businessman, Michael*, told Investigate, “but there were the likes of people being busted for marijuana, and like I went up to court myself – I got caught with 13 ounces and I got charged with 10. There was a lot of that going on.”
Who was the arresting officer?
“It was a cop called Peter Gibbons,” Michael said.
What happened to the missing three ounces of dope?
“It was put back out for supply,” says Jack*, another former drug dealer turned businessman who saw a large amount of his seized marijuana vanish without trace between arrest and the typing up of the charge sheet. “The cops had their networks, people they used, and they made a fortune from seizing drugs and reselling them.”
“They had their hands out all the time,” Michael confirmed to Investigate. “I know people who were pulled up with heaps and heaps of drugs but they just left them alone if you fixed them up.
“They’d take all your money, or drugs, whatever, then say ‘don’t let us see you out here again’, but you’d never be charged. That happened to me quite a lot. I got picked up a few times with amounts of pot on me and they’d just take the weed and say ‘I won’t see you again tonight’.”
According to Michael, senior Dunedin Police were running a protection racket where drug dealers would be left alone provided they paid substantial money to certain police officers.
“There was people getting paid under the table. [Name deleted] was a bit of a drug dealer back then but the cops never went around to see him. I was working in with him as well and we never got touched hardly, then this Peter Gibbons would come in.
“I was probably making three or four thousand dollars a week selling drugs and stuff like that, and because they weren’t getting anything out of it they were coming around and just ripping people off,” recalls Michael.
Furious at being set up during Operation Sub Rosa, John Doe went to the trouble of doing a little research on Gordon Hunter. He hired his own private investigator, who did an asset search and found the detective owned substantially more property and assets than his meager police salary would appear to support.
“Hunter and Gibbons also had accounts at the same bank in South Dunedin, where I banked. One of the staff members there showed me printouts one day. On the statements I saw, Hunter was taking in thousands of dollars a week. The bank executive made the comment to me that Hunter’s incomings far exceeded an ordinary detective’s wages,” says Doe.
Which tallies with information provided to us by Bob Wood’s former girlfriend, who has also sworn an affidavit.
“I remember I had to go away and drop money off to Gordon Hunter, but I don’t remember why. I had to take money out of an account and give it to Gordon Hunter in cash. It was $1500. I had to meet him, in one of the D cars. He came and met me at Lookout Point, and I was to just park there and sit and wait by the Fire Station, and I can’t remember if I was the one to get out of my car or not. I was given all these instructions, do this, do that, do this, do that. And I had to do it in cash, out of the Westpac branch in South Dunedin. It was a lot of money. It was to be gotten in littler bills, not hundreds. It was a big wad of money.”
To give Hunter the benefit of the doubt, perhaps there was an innocent explanation for the city’s top car thief paying a police officer $1,500 in small bills at a remote location. But it’s hard to think what kind of explanation that might be.
Nor is it the only question mark hanging over Hunter’s conduct. When a central city jewelry store was raided in a smash and grab in the late seventies, a friend of the jeweler’s saw Detective Hunter bend down and scoop up rings that had been scattered on the pavement. The raiders made off with around $90,000 worth of jewelry, but although some was later recovered and some of the offenders caught, mysteriously Gordon Hunter did not return the rings he’d picked up.
The jeweler, who’d been advised by his friend of Hunter’s actions, was later stunned when a local criminal offered to “return” the items for a substantial reward.
For the record, standard police procedure at the time was to cordon off crime scenes, impose a police scene guard, and wait for the police photographer to arrive and photograph the rings where they’d fallen on the pavement, for evidential purposes. Additionally, where some of the rings may have been clutched in an offender’s hand, there was always the possibility of fingerprints. Gordon Hunter’s actions precluded that.
But it wasn’t just Hunter.
“They all had their fingers in the pie,” says Michael. “They’re all pretty well off. They were worse than what we were, they were absolute backstabbing pricks.”
Michael also recalls the police earning cash from insurance companies for retrieving stolen vehicles.
“Sometimes they were like bounty hunters. I stole a motorcycle one time and you’d think it was a Rolls Royce I’d actually pinched. They had cops out for it everywhere, and they were looking for the reward.
“Something went missing, the freezing works got their export meat pinched, there was a joker in there doing that, but they ended up getting onto that but the cops ended up taking all the meat home. None of the meat got returned, but they ended up getting something for catching him.”
While admittedly some of these events date back to the eighties and nineties, the evidence and affidavits compiled by Investigate for independent review suggest the corruption was widespread, and part of the overall Dunedin Police culture. Many of the junior staff at the time are in more senior positions nationwide today and, as one ex-Christchurch officer told Investigate, “Leopards don’t change their spots”.
There is one final mystery Investigate has been able to solve – the identity of the police officer who was obtaining hardcore pornographic movies for the police rugby functions. The officer was a good friend of Peter Gibbons and a member of the police rugby club, which may be why Gibbons was prepared to lie about Wayne Idour supplying movies.
“I know that [the police officer] was going up to [a drug dealer]’s place and getting blue movies and stuff like that. Very early 80s.I was working with [a drug dealer] at the time,” says Michael, and [the police officer] used to turn up and I thought, ‘this is a bit odd, this is a bit weird’ because here was some cop dropping off movies and picking up new movies, and they were all banned ones.”
For the sake of the officer’s family and children, Investigate chooses not to name him. He is named, however, in the documents prepared for independent legal review.
Of course, Gibbons’ claim already had credibility running against it. As previously pointed out, if Idour were truly the source of the bestiality movie he had nothing to gain and everything to lose by mentioning the incident to Investigate. Yet Peter Gibbons was insistent to the point of overacting:
“Wayne Idour played that movie, Wayne Idour put it on, Wayne Idour was watching it. That’s what I categorically remember. I and another person spoke to him about it. And I remember it very, very well,” Gibbons told 3 News.
“I personally believe Mr Gibbons,” Police Minister Annette King chimed in, before deliberately vilifying an innocent Wayne Idour.
Like an episode of the cartoon show Roadrunner, however, the ground has fallen away beneath Gibbons with these latest revelations, and with them the credibility of the Government’s opposition to a Commission of Inquiry.
Howard Broad’s chickens have well and truly come home to roost.
Anyone wanting to add further information to our investigation can email our international email address: confidential(at)investigatemagazine.tv
December 03, 2007
The Key Questions, 02 December 07
In the latest Key Questions interview, John Key concedes a blunder over his DVD, expresses concern about the Ben & Olivia murder trial, and says Helen Clark must take the blame for the latest Mallard gaffe.