Orchard workers admit sex offence, abduction

A pair of orchard workers laughed as they sexually violated a woman they had dragged down to Lake Dunstan, a court has heard.

Suliasi Fangatua (30) and Taniela Siale (22) pleaded guilty to abduction and sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection almost a year after the incident when they appeared before the Dunedin District Court yesterday.

The orchard workers, from Tonga, were understood to be nearing the end of their seasonal stint when they turned up to Cromwell’s Victoria Arms Hotel early on February 3.

Eight minutes later CCTV showed them leaving the bar.

The victim, a 35-year-old woman, could be seen talking to Siale outside the establishment.

Moments later, she was captured walking across the road to a car park with two men.

She had been told she could get a ride home.

Instead the pair dragged her over a grass bank, towards the lake, and her ordeal, which would last more than an hour, began.

The next day, a police sweep of the scene showed the path the group took.

The victim’s shoes were found in the car park, her jeans in some bushes, togs on a gravel path closer to the lake and her phone was in the water, metres from the shore.

As she was being hauled into the darkness by the burly men, she managed to call her partner.

He later retrieved the message and heard her repeatedly saying "help".

Siale and Fangatua restrained her, one grabbing her upper body, the other her lower half.

Closer to the lake, further from any prospect of help, the defendants pinned her down on her back and removed her clothes.

"The victim was naked, but she continued to kick out, fight and scream," the court heard.

Fangatua positioned himself by her head and put his hand over the victim’s mouth to stifle her calls for assistance.

Siale, meanwhile, violated the woman.

Fangatua only removed his hand from her mouth so he could kiss her.

"The defendants conversed in a foreign language and laughed together before continuing to sexually violate the victim in the same way for a period of time."

Worried her life was in danger, the woman took a different approach.

She stopped fighting back, the court heard, and told the men she was not going to tell anyone about what they had done.

Siale handed over his grey hoodie when she said she was cold.

He had no idea at that point that it would provide crucial evidence in the case against them.

The victim bolted back up the path, made it back to the hotel and managed to rouse the publican.

Siale and Fangatua walked back to their accommodation.

Forensic analysis of the hoodie turned up DNA from both defendants as well as the victim.

A swab taken from the woman’s genitalia provided a match with Siale.

While the men refused to admit their involvement at the time, they were convicted following their guilty pleas yesterday and Judge Dominic Flatley gave them each a first-strike warning under the three-strikes legislation.

They will be sentenced in April.