It took a jury just 20 minutes to acquit an Auckland
tow-truck driver accused of taking an impounded car on an
unauthorised high-speed spin.
Michael Donald Woods admitted driving the car after towing it
back to his yard for the police in 2012.
Mr Woods, who told APNZ he now goes by the name Michael
Holliday, said he took the Nissan Silvia on the road to make
sure he hadn't damaged its suspension when he hoisted it on
He defended a charge of unlawfully taking a motor vehicle on
the basis that he had not known he did not have permission to
drive the car.
After his two-day trial finished in the Auckland District
Court yesterday, Mr Woods said the acquittal felt "hollow".
In August 2012, the NZ Transport Agency suspended his licence
to operate as a tow-truck driver because it ruled he he
wasn't a "fit and proper" person, he said.
Mr Woods said the prosecution had been a "set up" and he felt
let down by what happened to him.
When asked who had set him up, the 51-year-old said: "It's
not hard to put it together".
Now the trial was over, Mr Woods said he wanted to focus on
patching up his relationship with his family, which had been
affected by the charge.
The speed of the jury's verdict surprised him and it was
still "sinking in" last night.
"I'd just sat down to read my petrol-head magazine and was
about to have a coffee and they came back."
Early on April 15, 2012, Mr Woods was called by police to
pick up the impounded Silvia from Mt Wellington.
The Crown initially said he took the car on a "joyride" along
streets surrounding his Pakuranga firm, East City Towing, but
prosecutor Leo Farmer did not use that term in his closing
Mr Farmer said Mr Woods was caught out by a GPS tracking
device in the impounded car, called a Snitch.
Its data showed the car hit speeds of 113 kmh and 105 kmh at
times on a short trip.
When police spoke to him, Mr Woods initially said he followed
a carload full of boyracers hanging around his yard, with the
Silvia still on the back of his truck. He then changed his
story and said he drove the Silvia to make sure it wasn't
"If you thought you'd damaged the car, why would you drive it
up and down the road at speed? Why wouldn't you just look at
it?" Mr Farmer said.
Defence lawyer Jeremy Bioletti told the jury Mr Woods did not
handle the police interview well, but said people lied for
"I just ask you to see if from the point of view of the
person themselves," Mr Bioletti said. "That person may see
part of his business crumbling before their eyes, or other
Mr Bioletti said while the Silvia's owner, Erin Ashe,
subsequently said Mr Woods did not have permission to drive
the car outside the tow yard, he didn't know that at the
- By James Ellingham of APNZ