Dunedin robbery suspects in prison fracas

Two men charged with the armed robbery of a Dunedin convenience store have had their Dunedin court date postponed after they allegedly attacked a Rimutaka Prison guard this week.

Rawiri Wereta (28) and Damian Wereta (31) were to appear in the Dunedin District Court yesterday on a joint charge of aggravated robbery, following the violent armed robbery of the Regent Night 'n Day in June, but remain at the Upper Hutt prison following the assault incident.

They were on remand in Rimutaka after they were arrested in Palmerston North last week, after a six-week police investigation.

Rimutaka prison manager Richard Symonds confirmed yesterday four Rimutaka Prison staff were involved in the assault.

Two were assessed in hospital, but were now recovering at home.

He declined to release details of the guards' injuries, but it is understood at least one sustained a broken jaw.

Mr Symonds said he understood three of the guards became involved after seeing a prisoner assaulting their colleague. He believed the prisoner attacked the guard after refusing to be locked in his cell for the night. The second prisoner then became involved.

The two prisoners had been moved to another unit and were being closely monitored to ensure the safety of staff and other prisoners, he said.

Prison staff tried to prevent incidents occurring or escalating. However, there was always the risk of "spontaneous incidents".

The incident had been referred to police.

• Dunedin police have laid five further joint charges against the men and a third man, Poutokomanawa Hapi (19), who is also jointly charged with the aggravated robbery of the Night 'n Day. The new charges relate to the unlawful taking of five vehicles in June and July.

Damian Wereta also faces new charges, including two further aggravated robberies, demanding with menace, possessing firearms and drugs charges.

The two men were excused from appearing in the Dunedin District Court yesterday and remain in custody in Wellington. Hapi was further remanded on bail to September 2, when all three are due to appear.


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