'Disgusting' messages followed by escape from cop car

After breaching bail and stealing a car, a Dunedin man was sitting in the back of a police car under arrest.

Seconds later, however, he scaled a fence and was gone.

Wayne Ross Bennett (37) spent two days on the run before he handed himself in.

The fiasco marked an end to two years without offending — the longest such period in the defendant’s adult life, defence counsel Sarah Saunderson-Warner said.

Yesterday, Bennett appeared before the Dunedin District Court where he was jailed for 18 months on three charges of breaching a protection order, unlawfully taking a vehicle, wilful damage, refusing to accompany police and escaping police custody.

The defendant’s downward spiral began in June last year, when he sent Facebook messages to his former partner in breach of a ban that had been in place for nearly a decade.

It got worse in the following days when he took lunch to his daughter’s school, which was also a contravention of the protection order.

While Ms Saunderson-Warner played down its seriousness, Judge Emma Smith said the incident was clearly an example of Bennett asserting his psychological control.

Five days later, he contacted the young girl through Snapchat, in which he claimed to be suicidal.

Judge Smith described the messages as “disgusting”.

The defendant agreed, saying it was “the worst thing he had ever done”.

Despite a lengthy criminal history including repeated stays behind bars, Bennett was granted bail, one of the conditions of which was not to consume alcohol.

On October 4, he went to see an associate who he believed owed him money in relation to a vehicle.

Seeing a Toyota Hiace at the home had keys in the ignition, Bennett took it.

While driving, he took his frustrations out on the windscreen, punching it until it cracked, the court heard.

Police pulled the defendant over only because he failed to stop at a compulsory stop sign.

Once a breath test confirmed Bennett was over the 250mcg legal limit, he was informed he would need to accompany officers to the station.

Police discovered the man was also breaching bail.

Then he was gone.

Bennett ran down the road before veering into a property.

Police gave chase on foot but lost the defendant when he cleared a 1.8m fence.

Ms Saunderson-Warner said her client “panicked” when faced with a lengthy period in custody.

She also stressed the indiscretions had been prompted by Bennett’s methamphetamine use, which had been brought to an abrupt end with his eventual detainment.

The man was receptive to professional help and his goal was now to become a “family man”, Ms Saunderson-Warner said.

Judge Smith ordered Bennett to pay $360 for the broken windscreen and banned him from driving for a year.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

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