HISTORY III: The Mighty Mongrel Mob

The legend goes, sometime in the 1960s, a group of criminal youth appeared in front of a judge in Hastings, a city of 49,000 in the Hawke’s Bay region. The youth stood in front of the judge who berated them for their misdeeds, eventually calling them “nothing but a pack of mongrels”

The term ‘mongrel’ originated to define a dog of unidentifiable mixed breed, but overtime the term had taken on different meanings. The term evolved to be used by some in a derogatory sense to refer to a person of mixed racial origin and finally ‘mongrel’ became a term used by some to refer to ‘mischievous delinquents’.

This was the manner in which the judge delivered his ‘mongrel’ comments to the youth present. Far from rejecting the term, the men embraced the word and began to refer to their group as the Mongrels. By 1970, the Mongrels evolved into the Mongrel Mob gang.

Visit www.truecrimenz.com for more information on this case including sources and credits.

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The podcast version is the intended way to consume this story but we make a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.

HISTORY III: The Mighty Mongrel Mob

——-

NOTE:

This is a detailed investigation into the history of The Mighty Mongrel Mob. The Mongrel Mob is a NZ gang that embraces offensiveness, debauchery and lawlessness.

By the nature of the topic, this episode contains disturbing violence, discussions of offensive material and graphic language.

——-

INTRODUCTION

Born in a brothel,
Raised in a jail,
Proud to be a Mongrel,
Sieg fucking Heil!

— The Mongrel Mob Ditty

INCEPTION

The legend goes, sometime in the 1960s, a group of criminal youth appeared in front of a judge in Hastings, a city of 49,000 in the Hawke’s Bay region. The youth stood in front of the judge who berated them for their misdeeds, eventually calling them “nothing but a pack of mongrels”

The term ‘mongrel’ originated to define a dog of unidentifiable mixed breed, but overtime the term had taken on different meanings. The term evolved to be used by some in a derogatory sense to refer to a person of mixed racial origin and finally ‘mongrel’ became a term used by some to refer to ‘mischievous delinquents’.

This was the manner in which the judge delivered his ‘mongrel’ comments to the youth present. Far from rejecting the term, the men embraced the word and began to refer to their group as the Mongrels.

By 1970, the Mongrels evolved into the Mongrel Mob gang. One of the founding members of the Mongrel Mob, Gary Gerbes explained to author Jarrod Gilbert for his book, Patched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand, how the gang’s antisocial and anti establishment ‘psyche’ started, Gary explained their disenfranchisement was fallout from a belief the ‘establishment’ had turned their backs on them, “A lot of those guys [early Mongrels] went through the same place – Levin Training Centre and Epuni Boys’ Home . . . It was pretty sad and pretty demoralising – there was sexual abuse by the people that ran the place [and] absolutely shocking violence… Those places destroyed our fuckin’ heads, man. [So we said] fuck the system. If that was the way they were going to treat us, then we will treat them the same way. We were going to give them what they gave us – and [via the Mongrel Mob] they got it all right”.

The gang is notorious for its intimidating image. The Mongrel Mob patch is red and of a British bulldog, sometimes depicted wearing a German Stahlhelm helmet. This contradiction is supposedly intending to offend. In reality, the Mongrel Mob’s whole ensemble is intended to offend. The Mongrel Mob has adopted the German Nazi emblem, the swastika as well as embracing the German phrase ‘Seig hail’, translating in English to ‘Hail victory’, a phrase originating from Nazi political rallies, as a sign of their rebellion against traditional New Zealand values and a ‘middle finger’ to the previous generation who had fought in the second World War.

Over time, it would seem the phrase in ‘Mob’ culture lost touch with its origins and ‘Seig hail’ became an informal greeting to other Mongrel Mob members. Another greeting is ‘The Mongrel Mob salute’, which consists of holding your hand out with your three middle fingers held down, with your little finger and thumb held outwords. Similar to the ‘shaka’, or ‘hang loose’ sign, originating from Hawaii in surfer culture.

Only men can join the Mongrel Mob, a woman’s role is seen as subservient, however there are no ethnic restrictions on members, and the gang recruits from all backgrounds. As long as the ‘prospect’ is willing to do errands or ‘missions’ as a display of loyalty to the gang, they will eventually become a full ‘patched’ member. Patched members must also get a tattoo of the Mongrel Mob’s insignia, the British bulldog. Many patched members decide to get the tattoo on their face as a display of commitment to the gang.

VIOLENCE

Over time the gang’s character evolved further, embracing their philosophy of ‘Mongrelism’, becoming more violent and misanthropic. Becoming responsible for countless acts of brutality and bloodshed. However, the gang is perhaps most infamous for some of the most vile sexual violence perpetrated in NZ. Infamous for the act of ‘blocking’ or putting women ‘on the block’, which is coded language for gang rape. 

Perhaps the most infamous case of gang rape occured at a Mongrel Mob gathering at Auckland’s Ambury Park on the 14th of December 1986. The gathering was an attempt to change the Mongrel Mob’s image, but in an apparent act of defiance, younger members kidnapped a 19-year-old woman and transported her to the grounds where she was beaten, covered in petrol, urinated on and gang raped by fifteen men, with photographs taken of the rape by observers. After nine hours of torture, the woman finally escaped. 

Reportedly, in recent years, attitudes within gang culture around ‘blocking’ have changed, and some gangs chapters have banned the act outright. The last instance we can find of gang rape convicted in court by Mongrel Mob members was in 2008

The Mongrel Mob has also been responsible for many high profile murders over the half a century it has been operating. One such crime occured in 1987, the murder of 16-year-old Colleen Burrows in Napier. Colleen’s mother Ida Hawkins recounted the crime to the NZ Centre for Political Research in 2008, stating Colleen had gone out with friends under the pretense of going to the local takeaways when, “Two thugs took her from the street. She refused to have sex with them. They then drove over her repeatedly and kicked her to death. They were both wearing steel capped boots. Her body was so badly mutilated, that I couldn’t see her to say goodbye”.

A former member of the Mongrel Mob, Bruno Isaac told author Jarrod Gilbert for his book, Patched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand that the gangs lawlessness and violent behaviour was something the Mongrels embraced, “If it was considered evil, bad and lawless we embraced it as good; everything was backward or ironic. The “mystery” of the gang was that we were right even if we were wrong; we were good even if we were bad. We embraced a living contradiction. The Mob psyche may have made no sense to outsiders but everything made perfect sense to us. Being a Mongrel meant being able to do anything your mind could conceive; any form of fantasy or debauchery you were able to dream up was acceptable”.

ZANIA MCCAULEY

To support these beliefs of ‘the Mob psyche’, we came across the story of Zania McCauley, a woman who details a sixteen year relationship with Te Teko Mongrel Mob president John Chase

In 1998, Zania was 21-years-old living in the Bay of Plenty as a single mum. She first met John at a party, as Zania describes to Newshub in 2019, “Our first encounter was at a party after drinking a bit. I didn’t drink much but that night I drunk too much and woke up the next morning with him next to me”.

The next day, John returned to Zania’s house to inform her he was moving in. When she refused he attacked her, John informed her that not only was he moving in but he was the president of the Te Teko Mongrel Mob and he would shoot her son if she went to the police about it.

However, Zania tried to go to the police, but this information got back to John. To punish Zania, John tied her to a chair and repeatedly beat and raped her for days.

This type of sexual and physical abuse continued for sixteen years and during that time Zania even gave birth to twins. The rapes continued however, even reportedly within days of giving birth. 

On another occasion, John roped Zania to the back of his car and dragged her down the road. Zania tried to kill herself on five separate occasions during this time. 

The nightmare eventually came to an end sixteen-years-later when Zania finally had enough, she told Newhub in 2019, “I wasn’t even prepared for it, but I just felt ‘now or never’ and I thought ‘this is do or die’. I’m going to die outside my girls’ room, but I’m going to do it fighting. He walked up into my face like literally right there which he would always do, but this time I thought, ‘I’m looking at death in the eye,’ and he said, ‘What the fuck did you just say?’ And I said, ‘You heard me,’ and he goes ‘You fucking think you’re tough bitch?’… I said, ‘I’m not tough I am fucking over it. Do your worst, because I’m ready.’”

John Chase reportedly left ‘in a rage’ to retrieve a gun but was arrested after Zania called the police. However, the weapon charge didn’t stick and John walked free. Now stalking Zania, John reportedly threatened her on many occasions and even set her house on fire.

However, finally in February of 2017, Hoani John Chase was sentenced to 18-and-a-half years in prison, convicted of 28 counts of violence and sexual abuse, including rape.

Zania McCauley was there to read her victim impact statement, in which she told the court that she was finally getting her self-esteem back and no longer slept with a knife under her pillow. She concluded, “I am going to live the best damn life ever, I am free of you, Chase.”

CRIMINAL ACTIVITY 

The Mongrel Mob exist mostly outside of traditional society, therefore fund their operations with criminal activity. These crimes seem to mostly involve stealing, extortion, drug manufacturing, drug trafficking and drug distribution. 

This is evidenced by the four month long police investigation dubbed Operation Walnut. In the operation the police infiltrated the Mob using undercover agents, which eventually led to raids in Wellington and Auckland.

The raids undercovered a methamphetamine manufacturing empire that distributed over 20 kilos of meth, street name ‘P’, between December 2016 and April 2017, making the Mongrels an estimated $18 million dollars.

Also confiscated during the raids was $450,000 in cash, two stolen motorbikes valued at $30,000, and over thirteen vehicles, a jetski and two boats, valued at $1.8 million. As well as grenades, and eleven guns being found on the properties.

The Mongrel Mob also run a number of ‘legitimate’ businesses such as nightclubs, massage parlours and fishing operations. However, it is widely believed that these businesses exist mostly to launder money made from illegal sources.

GANG WAR

Aotearoa’s history is peppered with instances of gang warfare. The Mongrel Mob’s main rival is NZ’s second largest gang, the Black Power. One instance of this happened in 1981 outside the Christchurch Cathedral at a Family Day. A violent brawl ensued between two gangs, many onlookers thought the encounter was a piece of performance art and gathered around to watch.

What happened after was told by Senior Constable Gary Tibbotts of the Christchurch Police for the documentary, Ross Kemp on [NZ] Gangs, “There was probably 1,000 people around the whole square, lunchtime, um, people sitting down and enjoying the sun, and the music. And then suddenly from out of nowhere… a fight erupted… it was a fight between two gangs, the Christchurch Mongrel Mob and the Black Power, it was a planned attack. Two or three members of the Mongrel Mob were surrounded by about a dozen Black Power members. The leader of the Black Power gang signalled the start of the attack by holding his two fingers above his head and bringing his fingers down and then… it was all on. Out came knives, a piece of water pipe, chains… One of them [a Mongrel Mob member] got stabbed with a knife. On his side he had a shoulder bag, from that he produced an axe. His mate then picked up the axe and grabbed one of the opposing gang members and struck him a blow just behind the neck. The axe went through his jacket, two thicknesses, through his jersey and a t-shirt and just nicked the side of his neck. Miraculously, he escaped fatal injury”.

After this, the gangs dispersed and retreated. But the rivalry, and subsequent violence continued — and sometimes, innocents got caught in the crossfire.

On the 5th of May 2007 in Whanganui, a small town in the Manawatu region, an altercation commenced at a rugby league game between Black Power member Joshua Te Tua and Mongrel Mob member Karl Check. The fight was apparently over Black Power members smashing the windscreen of a four wheel drive vehicle owned by the Mob. 

Later that night, in retaliation for the attack, Mongrel Mob members including Karl Check and Hayden Wallace, in a three car convoy, pulled up outside Joshua’s Puriri Street property in the Wanganui suburb of Castlecliff.

Three bullets were fired by Hayden Wallace at the behest of Karl Check into the property from a .303 rifle, two bullets flew through the property hitting nobody. However, tragically, the third came in the lounge window, toward the couch and into the head of Joshua’s two-year-old daughter, Jhia who was asleep on the couch.

Jhia’s mother, Ria Gardiner dove to the ground and pulled Jhia into her arms, she told the court later, “When I was holding her, it felt like she was going toilet on me… I just felt all this warm, thick liquid pouring out off her and I just thought that she was going toilet, because she had been sick all day… That’s when I noticed it was blood and she had been shot… she was already gone”.

CHANGING TIMES

Having been around for almost sixty years, the Mongrel Mob has gone through changes throughout the years, many for the positive. According Te Atawhai Te Rangi, who was involved with gang life in the past and now conducts research into the life she left behind, one notable change for the positive is women are now reportedly treated with more respect and have more power, adding that gang rape, or ‘blocking’, in gang culture is now unheard of.

In 2010, the Mangere based chapter, dubbed Mongrel Mob Notorious announced that they partnered with the Salvation Army to combat methamphetamine addiction. In the Salvation Army magazine War Cry, the chapter head Roy Dunn spoke about the programme in 2013, “As our rehabs have progressed—we have just had our fifth rehab programme—I ask myself, has this journey been worth it? I guess my answer is that every time I bury another one of my bros, my gut turns, and so I keep going on this journey. I remind myself of where we have come from and our vision to see our children free. Our vision to know and understand values that see us embrace that which we are good at: being whanau, looking out for each other, and having a good future for our kids”. It is unclear whether the programme is still active today.

In November of 2019, the Mongrel Mob held a gathering they called a ‘workshop’ in Hamilton, a large city in the Waikato region. The workshop, which was attended by 300 Mob members, was an attempt to change the culture of the Mongrel Mob. Sonny Fatupaito, the president of the Hamilton chapter of the Mob, known as Mongrel Mob Kingdom opened the workshop with a call against domestic violence, child abuse, suicide, addiction to drugs and alcohol, “When there’s violence in the home, the eldest child often takes over caring for their siblings. These children now have adult problems. They start thinking thoughts they shouldn’t have to think, suicidal thoughts… I’m tired of putting a hand of dirt on top of a box.”

In a further reformist move Mongrel Mob Kingdom retired the use of Nazi symbology and language after the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019 and delivered over 3,000 food parcels to families in need during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020.

However, some were sceptical of Mongrel Mob Kingdom and their evolving beliefs, believing events like the Mongrel Mob workshop are just large political relations exercises. It also should be noted that Mongrel Mob Kingdom does not represent all of the Mongrel Mob and its chapters. In actuality, Mongrel Mob Kingdom left the Mongrel Mob National Council in 2018, so it is unclear how universal these ideas are in the greater Mongrel Mob.

Police have remained skeptical of the Mongrel Mob’s evolution, specifically the Waikato based Mongrel Mob Kingdom, detective superintendent Greg Williams told the NZ Herald in 2019, that they still believed that the gang was involved with methamphetamine production, “In our view the Waikato Mongrel Mob remains a criminal organisation and the only thing that has changed in recent years is their attempt to improve their image in a variety of ways, including using social media… In saying that, we welcome any examples of positive messaging and genuine movement by gangs away from criminality, particularly changes to ensure their young people do not fall into the same spiral of violence, drug use and offending”.

CONCLUSION

The Mongrels have come a long way from a group of ‘ragtag’ youth being chastised in Hastings court. The Mongrel Mob only seems to become more mighty as they continue to grow in numbers from year to year, even expanding into Australia in 2013. The Australian Mongrel Mob has even grown to have three chapters of their own, in Melbourne, Darwin and the Gold Coast. There is even a chapter now operating in Canada.

As the gang numbers continue to grow, the question becomes, why are so many joining gangs? One gang member told stuff.co.nz in 2021, he joined the Mongrel Mob because, “I felt outcast from my family. They felt like a different gang to me and I didn’t feel welcome within my family.”

According to Jarrod Gilbert,​ a Canterbury University expert on gangs and author of the book Patched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand, one of the main factors why young people join gangs was for a sense of brotherhood, “Either their biological family are either gang-related or they have been so dysfunctional that they’ve got to find what most people are lucky enough to enjoy at home – but they have to go out and search for it… They’ve been kicked about from pillar to post, they’ve been neglected, and mistreated.”

Bruno Isaac, an ex-Mongrel Mob member who left the gang after finding religion sometime in the mid 2000s told stuff.co.nz in 2009 that his anger and violence was fallout from unresolved issues around abuse, namely sexual abuse, “You don’t need to be lonely. The reason that I was lonely was that I couldn’t share my pain of my abuse.” And furthermore, being part of a gang was looking for a place of belonging away from those sources of abuse, “You are chasing something but there’s nothing there. You are looking for love and belonging in all the wrong places”.

AFTERWARD/CONNECTING TISSUE

Over the six decades the Mongrel Mob have been operating they have grown into the biggest gang in New Zealand with over 1,000 members, in over 30 chapters and only continue to grow.

In 2019, the Police recorded 6,500 patched or prospective gang members across the country. It was also reported in 2019 that New Zealand gangs were apparently recruiting members at a rate greater than the police force, from 2017 to 2019, 893 police officers were recruited, however gang member recruitment during that same period outpaced them by 500, with 1,400 new gang members drafted.

Reportedly, prison is a major recruiting ground for the gang, with even a chapter inside Auckland Maximum Security Prison. According to the Department of Corrections, the number of gang affiliated persons sentenced increased from 290 in 2003 to 2,454 in 2017

Mongrel Mob member Harry Tam told stuff.co.nz in 2021 that prisons are fruitful territory for gang recruitment, “Prisons are a fertile recruitment ground for gangs and the increase in prison violence is a factor for people to join gangs as a means of protection.”

One such man who was recruited in prison by the Mongrel Mob in 1997 was 19-year-old Anton Matenga

To hear the rest of Anton Matenga’s story, please consider listening to the companion piece to this episode, next time on True Crime NZ.

SOURCES

Internet Articles
Salvation Army, Journeying together for a second chance, https://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/our-community/faith-in-life/our-people-our-stories/journeying-together
Wikipedia, Mongrel Mob, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongrel_Mob
Wikipedia, Black Power, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Power_(New_Zealand_gang)
Salient, Gang Land, https://web.archive.org/web/20181011071628/https://www.salient.org.nz/2008/07/gang-land/
New Zealand Centre for Political Research, Crime in Perspective, https://www.nzcpr.com/test-post-419/
Te Ara, Gangs and crime, https://teara.govt.nz/en/gangs/page-4
Teao Maori News, Mongrel Mob Kingdom to abandon Nazi symbolism, https://www.teaomaori.news/mongrel-mob-kingdom-abandon-nazi-symbolism
Stuff.co.nz, Sieg heil ‘a way of saying hi to the bros’, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/4569319/Sieg-heil-a-way-of-saying-hi-to-the-bros
Newstalk ZB, Raped, tortured: Mongrel Mob open day reveals hard truths, https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/news/crime/raped-tortured-mongrel-mob-open-day-reveals-hard-truths/
NZ Herald, Mob president Hoani Chase jailed for 16-year campaign of terror, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/mob-president-hoani-chase-jailed-for-16-year-campaign-of-terror/B7JEGQG52OXVWLWZEWL6233Q7M/
Radio NZ, ‘You felt the mana when they acknowledged the wāhine’, https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/330146/’you-felt-the-mana-when-they-acknowledged-the-wahine
Stuff.co.nz, Father tells of panic after Jhia fatally shot, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/714320/Father-tells-of-panic-after-Jhia-fatally-shot
NZ Herald, Tears in court as death of toddler described, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/whanganui-chronicle/news/tears-in-court-as-death-of-toddler-described/O7NZLPXKLYLFKEWXT4KBTOBINA/
Newshub, 16 years of cruelty: How one woman managed to escape and rebuild her life, https://web.archive.org/web/20201022072846/https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/shows/2019/08/16-years-of-cruelty-how-one-woman-managed-to-escape-and-rebuild-her-life.html
NZ Herald, Mongrel Mob Kingdom announces first female chapter, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/mongrel-mob-kingdom-announces-first-female-chapter/VXS6ND6MI4FD5JSDTUINCCTCGE/
Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand gangs on the rise: Why young Kiwis are getting patched, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/123699877/new-zealand-gangs-on-the-rise-why-young-kiwis-are-getting-patched
NZ Parliament, Youth gangs in New Zealand, https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/library-research-papers/research-papers/youth-gangs-in-new-zealand/
Stuff.co.nz, Police struggling to keep pace with evolution of New Zealand gangs, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/116682183/police-struggling-to-keep-pace-with-evolution-of-new-zealand-gangs
Stuff.co.nz, A life less violent, https://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/life-style/47393/A-life-less-violent
Newshub, Mongrel Mob opens up chapter in Canada, https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2018/09/mongrel-mob-opens-up-chapter-in-canada.html

Documents
Greg Newbold – University of Canterbury, Gangs and organised crime, sourced from: https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10092/8664/12629596_gangs_te%20ara_10%2012%2009.doc?sequence=1

Books
Jarrod Gilbert, Patched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand, 2013, sourced from: https://cdn.auckland.ac.nz/assets/press/all-books/pdfs/2013/Patched-text-web_sample.pdf

Television
Jonathan Jones, Ross Kemp on Gangs, Season 1, Episode 2: New Zealand, 2005

2 thoughts on “HISTORY III: The Mighty Mongrel Mob

  1. Thanks very much! Very interesting episode. It’s good to hear that they’re slowly changing their ways, but ultimately there is a lot of harm done still. In my opinion, it’s always going to be an attractive lifestyle to the lowlifes of NZ, therefore it will never be completely without strife and conflict. I would like some of the historic crimes to be prosecuted also, but NZ Police have always had trouble holding gang members accountable. It’s a tight knit group and loose lips are not looked upon kindly. I used to drink and hang with some fringe/ex-members, the stories are pretty chilling. Thanks for the podcast!

    Like

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