Burglary of home felt like ‘violation’

Iraia Burton, seen here leaving the Dunedin District Court with his personal belongings, was...
Iraia Burton, seen here leaving the Dunedin District Court with his personal belongings, was sentenced to six months and one day of home detention after being "triggered" back into drug use. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
The burglary of priceless heirloom jewellery from the home of a prominent Dunedin man has been described by his family as a "violation".

Iraia Aranga Ngamotu Burton, 36, appeared in the Dunedin District Court this week on nine charges following a crime spree that spanned more than six months.

In June 2017, the defendant was locked up for more than five years after he scored $50,000 of goods through break-ins over a long weekend.

But following his release, there was a similar pattern of relentless dishonesty.

It began in September 2022, when burglars forced their way into the home of a high-profile Dunedin man.

A trove of inherited antique jewellery was stolen, as well as high-value liquor.

Court documents put the value of the goods at $20,000, but the man’s wife said the financial cost was dwarfed by the sentimental pain of the loss.

"Our family has lost those treasures gifted down with love from generations, gifts that provide a connection with loved ones now passed on," she said.

Among them were gold and silver passed down from the woman’s mother and grandmother, pearls belonging to three generations of the family and a "very special" wedding ring designed by a now-deceased relative.

After the burglary, they beefed up security at the home to ward off a repeat "violation", but it had done little to instill a feeling of safety.

"I was fearful to sleep alone in the house, sleeping with the lights on for almost a year, and I was suspicious of lots of people," the victim said.

Burton, who admitted a charge of receiving, tried to sell some of the goods to a jeweller in Christchurch, but the court heard the store owner became suspicious of their provenance.

The defendant later pawned them for just $1000.

Burton’s deceit also stretched to his workplace at a Dunedin rehabilitation facility, where he stole a tin box containing $500 petty cash.

Judge Raoul Neave described it as "a pretty mean theft and a significant breach of trust".

By March 2023, police were closing in on Burton and turned up at his St Kilda home to arrest him.

However, he drove off and while on the run, his crimes ramped up further.

Burton continued to receive stolen goods from break-ins in Dunedin’s more affluent suburbs and, in May, broke into an Andersons Bay car yard.

After smashing his way into an Alfa Romeo but failing to start it, the defendant entered a brand-new high-end electric vehicle.

He placed tape over the interior camera, removed the Sim card, screwed on new licence plates, threw an electric scooter in the back seat and left the property.

Burton was finally arrested four days later when police found him in the driver’s seat of the stolen car, along with a swag of stolen items and 11.6g of the synthetic class-C drug known as "bath salts".

Judge Neave said the man’s plunge into criminality came with a "tragic irony".

Counsel Cate Andersen explained her client had been undergoing counselling, which triggered him back into drug use that resulted in him spiralling into the life he was trying to avoid.

Reading a report about Burton’s upbringing, the judge said it was clear how his life had been blighted by law-breaking.

He sentenced the defendant to six months and one day of home detention, and said he had confidence he would do the "hard yards" to address his issues.