Men found guilty of defacing 54 vehicles

Two Wanaka men were yesterday convicted in the Queenstown District Court of criminal damage after slashing the tyres of, and damaging, 54 vehicles parked within a 3km radius of the centre of the resort town in June.

Samuel Anthony Saunders (20) and Ryan Tamawaru Gwilliam (19) were jointly charged with the June 5 vandalism after police received several calls from people who had tyres slashed, paintwork scratched or wing mirrors broken on their vehicles.

The court heard police had found a cellphone and packet of cigarettes belonging to Saunders and later that evening had interviewed him.

He said he had been out drinking with Gwilliam and some associates at a friend's house and had then gone into town to continue drinking.

He had said he could not remember anything about the night from midnight until waking up at 6am in the grounds of a Wanaka school but said he had lost his cigarettes and cellphone.

When police spoke to Gwilliam on June 15, he said he had left Saunders about midnight in a bar and had not seen him again until the next afternoon.

He denied damaging the vehicles and said he had continued drinking at a private house and had walked home between between 3am and 4am.

After two months of police investigation Saunders was arrested and charged while still maintaining he had no memory of the events of June 5.

A few days after Saunders' arrest, Gwilliam admitted the pair had continued drinking together at a Dungarvon St house after leaving the bar.

He said they left the house on foot and Saunders began stabbing tyres with a pair of half-scissors.

Gwilliam said the attack was unplanned and the targets random.

Gwilliam's lawyer said his client was considering taking out a loan to pay back his half of the nearly $25,000 in reparation sought.

Judge Kevin Phillips called the attacks "wanton" and warned Saunders, who has a previous conviction, that he could face jail.

Both men were remanded on bail to appear again for sentence in October.

The charge carries a maximum seven-year prison term.


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