Published 20 July 2007
Auckland property developer Richard Kroon and a former motorbike club associate, Craig Weller, were found not guilty late last night of kidnapping Mr Kroon’s former partner in coastal property developments, Kim Spencer.
The jury retired at 1pm yesterday after a trial that began on 25 June and returned a verdict at 10.50pm.
Earlier item, published 19 July 2007
Jury about to retire in Kroon kidnap case
Did property developer Richard Kroon humiliate business partner Kim Spencer to “put the frighteners” on him in pursuit of a bigger share of profits or did Mr Spencer create an elaborate hoax to frame a partner he couldn’t afford to pay?
Crown prosecutor Ross Burns told the jury yesterday, in closing submissions in the Auckland District Court trial of Mr Kroon & Craig Weller, that Mr Kroon wanted to “bring Mr Spencer into line” over their joint-venture property deals.
For Mr Kroon’s part, counsel Paul Davison QC said his client already had lawyers working through variations to the partnership documents and the alleged kidnapping at Pakiri on 16 November 2004 made no sense. Mr Davison outlined how Mr Spencer’s story was “riddled with inconsistencies” and he characterised the police investigation as woeful, some of it inept and at times demonstrating downright neglect.
Mr Weller is alleged to have posed as a potential buyer to lure Mr Spencer to the property overlooking the southern end of Pakiri Beach, for which Mr Spencer & Mr Kroon had formed a joint venture to complete the subdivision and sell. Mr Weller is then alleged to have been one of a group of men – the rest in balaclavas – who forced Mr Spencer to take his pants off and sit on a plastic sheet, where he was beaten & kicked before being forced to sign documents produced by Mr Kroon.
Mr Weller has given no evidence in the 4-week trial but has given notice of an alibi. Mr Burns said Mr Weller had been identified and cast doubt on the alibi, saying “we haven’t heard a skerrick of evidence about it”. Mr Weller’s lawyers will make submissions this morning before the judge sums up and the jury retires.
Mr Burns, in his closing, said Mr Kroon had discovered Mr Spencer was “making a pile” out of another property deal, at Mangawhai, which Mr Kroon had previously decided he didn’t want to be involved in and had decided on the “frighteners” course for Mr Spencer.
“In the vernacular, they (Mr Kroon, Mr Weller & the masked men) were trying to scare the shit out of him. Mr Kroon thought he had put the frighteners on him so he wouldn’t dare to go to the police. Same as Mark Lyon (Mr Kroon’s former business partner in the Chancery development in Auckland) – I’ll burn your house down. (Mr Lyon’s house was burnt down, no arsonist identified).
“It was Mr Kroon taking the law into his own hands. He thought it was the best & easiest way to get what he wanted, put the frighteners on him so badly he wouldn’t do it (step out of line) again.”
Mr Burns told the jurors they were at the trial representing the community: “And the community does not condone people taking the law into their own hands, despite what a good idea it might seem to be.
“You will find when you go out you are talking not about the various components of what happened, but did it happen or not happen. Mr Spencer, you might consider a ratbag in many ways, his memory bad in many instances. But in this case his evidence is supported by facts.”
In defence, Mr Davison focused on Mr Spencer’s credibility and less on the series of phone calls which the Crown used to show the alleged kidnap perpetrators’ whereabouts at crucial times. However, Mr Davison did use a couple of those call traces to show Mr Kroon couldn’t have been at Mr Spencer’s Orewa home at the time alleged.
Mr Davison said Mr Spencer owed money, was motivated by money, “he was prepared to fabricate a story and implicate Mr Kroon to extricate himself from this joint venture at Pakiri”.
Mr Davison said Mr Kroon had no need of a dummy buyer to lure Mr Spencer to a property which both business partners were visiting regularly, and if Mr Kroon had arranged a beating for Mr Spencer it made no sense for him shortly after to want to go into the Spencer home to get Mrs Spencer to also sign documents, something Mr Spencer said he refused to allow.
“He has just stood over the husband, surrounded by some balaclava-clad men, and intimidated Mr Spencer into signing some documents, and he is going to stand around in the Spencer house and wait for Mrs Spencer to sign documents? ‘What are these, dear? – Oh, just documents I’ve had my arm pushed up my back to sign.’”
Mr Davison said the police investigation began badly. “Detective Carr makes a scene examination then resigns from the police and no record has been found of his scene examination. We’ve never heard from him. That’s an amazingly strange piece of evidence, which shows the attitude & level of competence being applied to this matter.
“Detective Wendy Wood had no notes to indicate a scuffle had taken place in the barn.” There was no hair, no DNA, no tyre marks on record or photographed. “Of course, if you know the police are going to find nothing, you have a plastic sheet and they took it away. No forensic evidence of any kind found.”
Mr Davison said the day after the alleged kidnapping and Mr Spencer’s visit to a medical centre, “Mr Spencer couldn’t identify which clothes he was wearing and they were all in the wash. Suppose they (the police) had got those clothes and found nothing? Then they got a statement from Ben Guinness (at the Leigh Sawmill café) and lost it. What type of investigation is this?”
As for Mr Kroon’s failure to provide originals of certain documents, Mr Davison said the police should have gone to the joint venture companies’ liquidators, but hadn’t.
The prosecution wanted the jury to believe Mr Kroon had spirited away his computer because that was where the incriminating documents had been created, but Mr Davison said on the night of the police search Mr Kroon had no opportunity to hide anything.
Attribution: Trial, story written by Bob Dey for this website.