Gloriavale man may have been victim of sexual offending - police

Sincere Standtrue was the oldest of 11 siblings in his family. Pool photo: Joanne Naish/The Press
Sincere Standtrue was the oldest of 11 siblings in his family. Pool photo: Joanne Naish/The Press
By Niva Chittock

A senior police detective has told an inquest into the death of the Gloriavale man that it is believed he was subject to harmful sexual behaviour in the Christian community.

Sincere Standtrue, who was 20, died in November 2018 following nine days in Christchurch Hospital's intensive care unit (ICU).

He was found unresponsive in the community's paint shop where he worked on 23 October, 2018 and was airlifted to Te Nikau Grey Hospital.

An inquest is underway in Greymouth this week to try to determine the cause and circumstances of his death.

Standtrue's state of mind at the time he died was among the issues being explored by the court. These included:

• Whether he was bullied (including physical discipline), whether at work, or in the community generally

• How well he coped with the set-up in Gloriavale

• Whether he was satisfied with how his life was progressing, according to the markers within the community

• Whether he had been subject to harmful sexual behaviour and if so, did this influence his actions on 23 October, 2018 or his state of mind at the time

• And if there were any other factors in Standtrue's life that might have caused him to wish to end his own life

Detective Senior Sergeant Kirsten Norton, the police officer in charge of the West Coast Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB), detailed police investigations into the community and statements made by Standtrue's parents.

In June 2020, police began Operation Minneapolis, which investigated boy-boy sexual offending at Gloriavale.

It started after police received information about the sexual offending of a then-16-year-old community member who, when interviewed by police, said that he and numerous others had been involved in extensive harmful sexualised behaviour, Norton told the court.

Sixty-one young people were found to be involved in harmful sexualised behaviour either as offenders, peers or victims, she said.

"Many young people were victims to several offenders."

The most prolific offender had 27 victims, Norton said.

Common themes in the offending included bullying, coercion, threats, bribery and it occurring while a younger boy was in the care of an older boy, she said.

Thirteen people were recommended for Youth Justice or District Court pathways.

Norton directed inquiries to "explore the possibility of Standtrue's exposure to this type of offending".

She then referred to a 2020 interview an officer had conducted with his father, Caleb Standtrue, in which he stated he knew "some of this behaviour had been going on on and off for a number of years".

"The signed statement also identified knowledge that Sincere was involved [sexually] with an older young man," Norton told the court.

"Caleb believed that Sincere was eight to 10 years old at the time."

A further police statement was taken from Caleb Standtrue, in which he detailed walking in on his son performing an act "about three or more months" prior to his death, she said.

"I told him it was not a good idea and not to do it," Norton quoted Caleb as saying.

His mother, Hannah Standtrue, also gave a statement to police.

Her statement too said Sincere had told her about rumours of boys committing an act.

"I told him it was a stupid thing to do and I told Caleb about it," she said.

Norton will continue to give evidence on Thursday.