The medal saga continues, more so now the medals have been returned and everyone is made aware of the circumstances of the theft and the return...
The Prime Minister was yesterday questioned over the bail-for-medals deal given to a leading Auckland gang figure and revealed by the Herald.
Daniel William Crichton was in Mt Eden Prison on drugs charges when he acted as a conduit to the thieves of the 96 medals, including nine Victoria Crosses, stolen from Waiouru Army Museum.
Crichton was set free as part of the deal that involved the thieves being paid an undisclosed amount of the $300,000 reward.
The National Party condemned the deal, saying using prisoners' freedom as a bargaining chip put public safety at risk. Leader John Key confronted Prime Minister Helen Clark with the Herald story in Parliament yesterday.
Mr Key said the security of the public was "a big price to pay".
He said Crichton had previously been refused bail because he was deemed a risk to the community.
"What sort of precedent does it set when a New Zealander who has previously been refused bail is allowed back into the community because somehow he was the inside snitch on getting back New Zealand's medals?"
Helen Clark said she was advised police had decided not to oppose bail "after a full risk assessment and in conjunction with the Crown Solicitor".
However, she said, bail decisions were ultimately made by a judge and she could not comment on police operational details. The prosecution against Crichton - a former Black Power member who has been linked to the Head Hunters - for possession of methamphetamine for supply would go ahead.
Court documents show the police summary of Crichton's case alleges that in 2006 he was a passenger in a car in which a box containing 81g of methamphetamine and $96,000 was found.
National's crime spokesman, Simon Power, also attacked the deal during the general debate in Parliament.
"The question on the minds of the public will be whether this individual is any less dangerous to the public today than he was when bail was originally denied. The question is this. Had this individual not been involved in allowing the return of the medals from within Mt Eden Prison, would he have got bail under normal circumstances? Answer: no.
"Has his behaviour changed, has his history changed, has his propensity to commit further crimes changed, and his risk of flight changed? All matters that are under consideration in a bail application. No. All that has changed among those risk factors is that this individual, after 'negotiations' with the Crown and police, is gone on bail," Mr Power said.
Corrections Minister Phil Goff would not comment on the deal, but hoped the medal thieves would be caught and prosecuted.
Crichton, 39 and a father of three, has the Black Power name and insignia tattooed on his face.
He has been bailed to an Auckland address where his wife Lou lives.
The Herald was told that since his release on January 21, police have been following him on visits to the kindergarten or when he goes out to relax and play basketball.
He has reportedly said he took part in the deal solely to be with his partner and children. He did not seek any financial reward.
Crichton told a stuff.co.nz reporter that he visited the thieves after his release. He said he knew them, but they were not gang members.
"They overstepped the mark, they didn't understand the enormity of it. If they'd used their brains, even done some research, I don't think they'd have done it, all the drama it caused.
Medal theft suspects' houses raided Wednesday, 27 February 2008
Police may be closing in on the military medal thieves after a series of raids in Auckland yesterday.
Police spoke to a suspect in Auckland's Mt Eden Prison and raided two other addresses linked to prime suspects.
The 96 priceless medals, including nine Victoria Crosses, stolen from Waiouru Army museum in December last year, were returned last week after a deal brokered by defence lawyer Chris Comeskey with a known criminal.
The New Zealand Herald reported today that at Mt Eden Prison in Auckland, police searched the cell of a prisoner - who could be known only as W because of a court order - who had been held on other charges since three days after the December 2 theft of the medals.
Detectives also searched the west Auckland home of a man jointly suspected of the theft and known as K. A computer hard drive was seized during the raid.
A third search warrant was for a private address in the greater Auckland area but police would not say if it was the former home of W.
The officer leading inquiry Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Bensemann was not available for comment today.
I know there's a lot of money in aviation because I put it there.