Crime spree costs victims over $100,000

Clay Harris  claims he was led astray by others during a 10-month crime spree that cost his...
Clay Harris claims he was led astray by others during a 10-month crime spree that cost his victims more than $100,000. Photo: Rob Kidd
A 10-month rampage around the South Island, causing "wanton" destruction and stealing vehicles, cost the victims of Clay Michael Harris more than $100,000.

But they will not see a cent.

Harris appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday having pleaded guilty to three counts of burglary, seven of theft and five of car theft.

Judge John Macdonald jailed the 27-year-old father of two for three years, eight months but said Harris had no way of making reparation.

"There was wanton, gratuitous damage ... There really are no mitigating factors," the judge said.

"Your actions have affected many people and of course those victims are unlikely in the foreseeable future to receive any recompense from you."

It all started in January last year when Harris and a co-defendant — who has pleaded not guilty — entered a forest near Hampden.

They hot-wired a heavy truck and drove  it around the logging site, causing $10,000  damage.

Harris and his mate left with tools valued at $2000.

Over the following months the defendant, allegedly accompanied by the other man most of the time, broke into several commercial premises where they wreaked havoc.

At a quarry near Springfield they made off with 1000 litres of diesel, eight vehicle batteries and a radio.

It became a pattern, and Harris also targeted Toyota Hilux vehicles.

He would break into them, usually drive them away and then "chop" them — removing the identification from various parts and using them on other vehicles. The defendant repeated the process in Greymouth, Nelson and Wanaka.

His audacious crime spree eventually ended.

On October 29, he and the co-defendant accessed a Fulton Hogan site in Luggate by removing part of a boundary fence.

The men took a huge amount of equipment and fuel and even towed a 1979 Nomad caravan away.

The next night the pair stole yet another Hilux from Waikouaiti and drove to a forestry block at Shag Point.

While Harris was "cutting up" a vehicle, a contractor spotted them and called police.

They tried to escape, ploughing into the side of the contractor’s vehicle parked at the gate as police arrived. Harris lost control of his vehicle which slid down a bank. He was  arrested.

A search of his property uncovered a massive array of stolen goods.

In a letter to the court, Harris said he had been negatively influenced by other people but Judge Macdonald was sceptical: "It seems from what I’ve read, you were one of the prime movers in this."

Information given to police by Harris to aid with recovery of stolen goods had amounted to nothing, the court heard.