1 Mar 2018

Riverhead quarry attack: Colin Jack Mitchell found guilty

5:47 pm on 1 March 2018

Colin Jack Mitchell bowed his head and clamped his eyes closed as the jury forewoman responded "guilty" to the first charge.

13032017 David White Fairfax Media 'ATTENTION...NAME SUPPRESSION APPLIES UNTILL MIDNIGHT 13/03/17 Colin Mitchell is remanded in custody in the Auckland District Court on charges of kidnap and sexual assault

Colin Jack Mitchell in the High Court in Auckland. Photo: Stuff

His head dropped further as guilty verdicts on all charges were returned. They related to him abducting a young woman and taking her to a quarry north-west of Auckland in February last year.

Mitchell has been on trial in the High Court in Auckland, where he denied charges of kidnapping, causing grievous bodily harm and assaulting a woman with intent to sexually violate her.

The jurors heard two weeks of evidence from more than 50 witnesses.

Turning 60 today, the Onehunga truck driver now faces a sentence potentially without end.

The Crown prosecutor indicated she would be seeking a sentence of preventive detention, meaning Mitchell will have to prove he is no longer a risk to society before he is let out.

The victim and her family were also in court. There were gasps as the verdicts came in and hugging outside court afterwards.

The young woman was just 23 years old at the time of the attack. She'd been out with friends watching the Gay Pride parade in Ponsonby in February last year.

On their way to Karangahape Road, she became separated from friends and met a stranger.

Unbeknown to her, he had a rape conviction. This point was later jumped on by Mitchell's lawyers at trial, but it was a false lead and police quickly ruled him out.

The woman was then stopped from entering a bar by bouncers and started making her way home alone.

The next thing she knew, she came to and a man was standing over her wearing a mask and holding what she described as a bat.

He was making demands of her to turn around.

She refused and managed to scramble away.

But at that point she had no idea where she was.

She made her way around the quarry site and eventually came to a road sign, alerting police to her position.

Investigators immediately began poring through security camera footage from businesses around Kingsland and Great North Road. They had what they believed was a silver or grey Ford Mondeo in and around Great North Road shortly before the abduction.

They also had security camera footage of what appeared to be the same car entering and leaving the quarry.

The camera did not capture a number plate but police could identify a tow bar and a disability sticker in the driver's window: that narrowed the field.

Investigators would later find a pair of gloves at the scene which contained Mitchell's DNA.

Mitchell told the court he wasn't the offender and that he had simply tried the gloves on while shopping at the Warehouse.

On Monday, he told the court that on the night he had been watching a movie on television and playing cards on his computer before leaving his home to get some relief for his swollen legs, just one of his injuries, caused in a workplace accident six years ago.

"[In] late May 2011, I got crushed by a 780kg coil. Well, it gave me an open book break on my pelvis, broke all my ribs, my leg, lacerated the spleen, punctured the lungs. I ended up in hospital, not allowed to move for about 15 weeks."

He said he would often bathe his legs at Onehunga wharf to soothe the swelling.

But under cross-examination from prosecutor Kirsten Lummis, Mitchell was asked why his cell phone was polling off a cell phone site in the Riverhead/Kumeu area.

Mitchell said he could not explain that because he was in Avondale at a park.

His lawyer, Mark Ryan, said the cellphone pinging data was unreliable and imprecise.

'Today is a day to reflect'

The jury took six hours over two days to return their verdicts.

Outside court, an advocate for the victim spoke on her behalf.

"Some of you may think that the verdict today would be a cause to celebrate. I couldn't disagree with that statement more. Today is a day to reflect. The fact I came across two men in one night who both have sexual assault and abduction convictions is appalling.

"For each individual with a rape conviction in New Zealand, there are 99 other rape victims where the offender was not caught.

"In 2014 the British medical journal, the Lancet, published a report indicating sexual assault rates. Out of 56 countries, New Zealand had the third highest rate - more than double the world average.

"As important as addressing the causes of climate change, we need to ensure New Zealand is a place that we actually want our children, brothers and sisters to grow up in."

Mitchell will be sentenced in May.

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