German woman tells of 'horror house'

German tourist Maja recovers at the Dunedin Central Police Station yesterday after a bad...
German tourist Maja recovers at the Dunedin Central Police Station yesterday after a bad experience with a Dunedin man she flew to New Zealand to meet last week. Photo by staff photographer.
A German tourist whose internet relationship turned out to be anything but romantic has warned of the dangers of travelling across the world to meet a stranger after spending a week in a Dunedin man's home she described as a "horror house".

Maja, a 36-year-old musician from Leipzig, was at the centre of a police armed offenders squad search at a Garfield Ave, Roslyn, house on Saturday.

The drama teacher and mother of one last night told the Otago Daily Times she knew as soon as she arrived in Dunedin on February 8 she had made a mistake.

She said the man who met her at the airport was not the 33-year-old PhD student with whom she had struck up an internet relationship in October through his Myspace page, but an unkempt, unemployed 54-year-old man.

The man yesterday contacted the ODT and said his name was Peter Robb.

Mr Robb said he believed the police had made up the reason for the AOS callout and information provided to the newspaper by the police was incorrect.

He said he had been the victim of substantial criminal harassment and abuse from the Dunedin police and others for several years.

"The Dunedin police have set you up in an elaborate farce it would appear," Mr Robb said.

Maja said she contacted Mr Robb because his page appeared as if he was part of an advertisement for New Zealand.

She had been looking for South Island contacts and he and she seemed to have the same interests.

It was only later she learned Mr Robb had superimposed a photo of himself appearing about 20 years younger on to the advertisement.

Mr Robb began emailing her frequently, sending her eloquent messages and poetry, until slowly the relationship turned romantic.

"He was quite intellectual and he knew the way to my heart."

It was not until after she had bought tickets to New Zealand that she became concerned he was emailing too often.

"But I had already booked the flight and it took all the money I have, and he said, `You can live here in my house for bed and breakfast' and he would help meet people and find work.

"It sounds very good. I never thought he was really lying. Maybe I'm stupid in that case, or naive."

When she arrived in Dunedin, she was alarmed after he rushed up to her, gave her a large hug and an over-friendly kiss and hurried her to his car.

"He had such a creepy aura. I was in shock."

Not knowing what to do, she travelled with him to his central Dunedin home.

"His home was really a horror house, I would say. Little roosters, cats and chickens lived in the house. There was a lot of cartons and dust and rubbish.

"You could not walk up the stairs and there was an ugly smell, a dead animal smell, and an ugly smell [of] old clothes."

She said she became more afraid as Mr Robb disclosed more about himself to her.

"He was really out of reality. He lived in a complete fantasy world.

"I was totally afraid because he said there was no electricity there, so we only had the candles at night."

At night, Mr Robb took off his clothes and lay down in the same bed beside her.

"I had all my clothes on and these dirty sheets around me . . . I realised in that moment it was too much."

She called the one person she knew in Dunedin, a man she met on the plane, and said she was not well.

"But I couldn't speak too much because he [Mr Robb] was listening. I put much energy in keeping him calm to make him not nervous. He was really afraid that someone would come in and that I'd tell someone I was not OK."

She said he later told her he had weapons in the house, but she saw only one weapon, an old fencing sword.

Maja said she stayed at the house because he would not allow her to take her passport when she left the house, he left with her and brought her home, listened in on her telephone calls and shouted at her.

But part of her also wanted to stay because she was a part-time social worker and she was fascinated to learn how a person became like that, she said.

She also did not have enough money to stay in accommodation for the whole visit.

"I just needed some time to realise that the person I had met now was not the person he had portrayed himself to be through his emails. I couldn't believe it. He yelled at me, but I thought if he touched me, I'd fight. I was really afraid."

Knowing things were not right, she tried to let the man she had met on the plane know something was wrong.

When she did not meet him as arranged on Thursday, he contacted the police, who called out the AOS to enter the house on Saturday night.

But the pair were not home because Mr Robb had insisted he take her to Kaikoura for several nights, which, she believed, was to keep her away from the fellow traveller she had arranged to meet, Maja said.

When they arrived home about midnight, the police were waiting and when she realised they were there to take her to safety she was relieved.

"They asked me if I wanted to go back and I said, `Of course not. I want to stay here [with you].' When they got my bags, I was really thankful not to go in anymore. I wanted to stop this contact."

While her experience here was like a bad dream, she expected the full reality to hit her when she got home.

She would advise people travelling overseas to meet a stranger for the first time that it was dangerous to come alone and that they should always have a good amount of money.

"I took the risk only because I didn't know it was such a risk. I want to tell every tourist that if you feel there is anything wrong at all, anything strange, just ask for help. I wish I had done it, but I thought they would say I was crazy."

Police said yesterday the man would not be charged.

"While her movements were restricted to some degree, there were situations where she had the opportunity to leave," Detective Senior Sergeant Steve McGregor said.

Saturday's AOS response had been appropriate given the facts and what police knew about the man with whom she was staying, he said.

Det Snr Sgt McGregor confirmed the noises heard from the Garfield Ave house on Saturday were stun grenades.

Maja, who has been staying in accommodation provided by the police, said she would fly home to Germany tomorrow as planned but would like to return to New Zealand again some day.

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