Not guilty verdict in boat firebombing trial

A jury has found a woman not guilty of firebombing her former partner’s boat and slashing tyres on her motor home.

Adrienne Mereana Hammond, 41, was on trial in Gisborne District Court this week for arson and burglary arising out of the alleged offences on August 1 of last year.

The jury deliberated for about an hour.

Hammond pleaded guilty ahead of the trial to two charges relating to the same night — being in possession of explosives (two Molotov cocktails police found her with after the boat fire) — and an assault on the complainant at a bar earlier.

Summing up the case, Judge Warren Cathcart instructed the jury not to reason that because Hammond was guilty of those matters she was also necessarily guilty of the ones before them. The Crown still had to prove each of the essential ingredients of the remaining charges.

Arson required actual damage to the boat. The jury had to be sure Hammond caused it, that she did so by fire or explosive and that it was intentional.

The damage need not be permanent. It could be rectifiable and even something very slight if it affected the value or usefulness of the vessel.

The boat was made of an impervious material and had not burned. There was a small amount of soot but that could be cleaned off. The Crown relied on a melted bung as the damage caused.

Judge Cathcart told the jury if it was not satisfied damage was proved, it could still find Hammond guilty of attempted arson.

For the burglary, the Crown needed to prove she, or an instrument used by her, was inside the yard, and that she intentionally slashed the tyres.

In his closing address, prosecutor Cameron Stuart told the jury that while the Crown case was circumstantial, all strands of evidence pointed to Hammond as the offender.

Either that, or she was on that night a very unlucky victim of a very unlikely, incredibly unbelievable, series of coincidences.

The same crimes she threatened earlier that night, when she assaulted the complainant, were later carried out. She had means and motive. She was later found with Molotov cocktails within 30 metres of the complainant’s house and confessed her intention to use them.

It made sense she would also target tyres on the motor home. She was aware some of her friends claims the complainant damaged their tyres with builder’s nails.

While most of the fire damage was limited to a makeshift cover on the boat, and a fish bin, the bung — an essential item for the seaworthiness of any boat — was completely destroyed. It melted and dripped on to the ground below.

Counsel Nicola Wright told the jury Hammond’s acknowledgements of the other charges gave credibility to her denial of these.

She confessed wanting to destroy the complainant’s property and that she was only stopped from doing so by police who found her en route.

Significantly, Hammond was heading to, not from, the address, Mrs Wright said. An arsonist was unlikely to return to the scene. And if Hammond was the arsonist, or if she had watched others light the fire — as she had suggested at one point — she would have known there was already a cordon up and a guard on duty.

The firebombs Hammond made were in beer bottles — very different to the wickless milk bottle bomb police believed was used to attack the boat.

She wasn’t found with a knife or any other item that could have been used to slash tyres.

The complainant, who regularly took to Facebook with public comments about these matters, had not accused Hammond of being the tyre slasher, but Hammond’s new partner.

It was not implausible someone else was responsible for what occurred that night. There were clearly others who also had grievances with the complainant, Mrs Wright said.

As to whether the boat was damaged – it wasn’t, Mrs Wright said. The complainant, a meticulous woman, had not reported damage to the bung. Perhaps it was already damaged?

A bung was an easily-replaced item, costing just a few dollars.

The Crown said no seafarer would take to the water without one. But this case wasn’t about sinking a boat, it was about damaging one, Mrs Wright said.

Hammond was further remanded on bail until July 13 for sentence on the admitted charges.

A jury has found a woman not guilty of firebombing her former partner’s boat and slashing tyres on her motor home.

Adrienne Mereana Hammond, 41, was on trial in Gisborne District Court this week for arson and burglary arising out of the alleged offences on August 1 of last year.

The jury deliberated for about an hour.

Hammond pleaded guilty ahead of the trial to two charges relating to the same night — being in possession of explosives (two Molotov cocktails police found her with after the boat fire) — and an assault on the complainant at a bar earlier.

Summing up the case, Judge Warren Cathcart instructed the jury not to reason that because Hammond was guilty of those matters she was also necessarily guilty of the ones before them. The Crown still had to prove each of the essential ingredients of the remaining charges.

Arson required actual damage to the boat. The jury had to be sure Hammond caused it, that she did so by fire or explosive and that it was intentional.

The damage need not be permanent. It could be rectifiable and even something very slight if it affected the value or usefulness of the vessel.

The boat was made of an impervious material and had not burned. There was a small amount of soot but that could be cleaned off. The Crown relied on a melted bung as the damage caused.

Judge Cathcart told the jury if it was not satisfied damage was proved, it could still find Hammond guilty of attempted arson.

For the burglary, the Crown needed to prove she, or an instrument used by her, was inside the yard, and that she intentionally slashed the tyres.

In his closing address, prosecutor Cameron Stuart told the jury that while the Crown case was circumstantial, all strands of evidence pointed to Hammond as the offender.

Either that, or she was on that night a very unlucky victim of a very unlikely, incredibly unbelievable, series of coincidences.

The same crimes she threatened earlier that night, when she assaulted the complainant, were later carried out. She had means and motive. She was later found with Molotov cocktails within 30 metres of the complainant’s house and confessed her intention to use them.

It made sense she would also target tyres on the motor home. She was aware some of her friends claims the complainant damaged their tyres with builder’s nails.

While most of the fire damage was limited to a makeshift cover on the boat, and a fish bin, the bung — an essential item for the seaworthiness of any boat — was completely destroyed. It melted and dripped on to the ground below.

Counsel Nicola Wright told the jury Hammond’s acknowledgements of the other charges gave credibility to her denial of these.

She confessed wanting to destroy the complainant’s property and that she was only stopped from doing so by police who found her en route.

Significantly, Hammond was heading to, not from, the address, Mrs Wright said. An arsonist was unlikely to return to the scene. And if Hammond was the arsonist, or if she had watched others light the fire — as she had suggested at one point — she would have known there was already a cordon up and a guard on duty.

The firebombs Hammond made were in beer bottles — very different to the wickless milk bottle bomb police believed was used to attack the boat.

She wasn’t found with a knife or any other item that could have been used to slash tyres.

The complainant, who regularly took to Facebook with public comments about these matters, had not accused Hammond of being the tyre slasher, but Hammond’s new partner.

It was not implausible someone else was responsible for what occurred that night. There were clearly others who also had grievances with the complainant, Mrs Wright said.

As to whether the boat was damaged – it wasn’t, Mrs Wright said. The complainant, a meticulous woman, had not reported damage to the bung. Perhaps it was already damaged?

A bung was an easily-replaced item, costing just a few dollars.

The Crown said no seafarer would take to the water without one. But this case wasn’t about sinking a boat, it was about damaging one, Mrs Wright said.

Hammond was further remanded on bail until July 13 for sentence on the admitted charges.

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