Case 27: The Naenae Bank Robbery

Robbery is different from theft, while both are the act of taking someone else’s property unlawfully, robbery differentiates itself by its use of either force or fear which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. An aggravated robbery is the crime of robbery committed by more than one person, or with a weapon, or where a victim is grievously injured.

Robberies began to fall out of popularity in the 1990s due to the increased use of EFTPOS and other cashless methods of paying for goods. Bank robberies also became less attractive to potential criminals due to increased security such as guards, silent alarms and CCTV cameras. Making the likelihood of getting away with a robbery much more improbable.

However, there will always be the criminally minded who believe they can beat the odds and walk out with bags of cash, jump in their getaway vehicle and drive off into the sunset. This is a tale of such folk, the day the Mighty Mongrel Mob robbed the Naenae Westpac Trust Bank.

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

Hosted by Jessica Rust

Written and edited by Sirius Rust

Music sourced from:

Day of Chaos by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3620-day-of-chaos
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Lost Time by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4005-lost-time
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Thunderbird by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4527-thunderbird
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Round Drums by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4308-round-drums
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Irregular by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3928-irregular
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Satiate by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4322-satiate
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Dhaka by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3646-dhaka
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

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.

Case 27: The Naenae Bank Robbery

——-

NOTE:

Before we begin, this episode is a companion piece to History III: The Mighty Mongrel Mob, therefore will not be covering the background of the Mob as it has been covered thoroughly in that episode.

This episode serves to document crime committed by gang related misconduct and how those misdeeds affect the greater New Zealand. We highly recommend you listen to the episode History III: The Mighty Mongrel Mob first be conscious of and discern the full and complete picture.

As a further disclaimer, we have surmised some of the exact language/quotes used during the robbery based on eyewitness testimonies of the activities inside the bank. For instance, instead of saying ‘the robber asked for money, aggressively’, we say ‘the robber yelled, “Money, I need fucking money!”’. We believe it aids with the human element of the story, and helps with drawing the listener further into the narrative without changing any authentic factual components.

Finally, without any further ado, on with the podcast.

——-

INTRODUCTION

Opened in 1920, in the suburb of Remutaka in Upper Hutt, a part of greater Wellington, Wi Tako Prison was built as a small confinement facility to house 50 inmates, mostly military defaulters. Over the next decades the prison grew in size to become one of New Zealand’s largest prisons. 

In 1990, the prison was officially renamed to Rimutaka Prison. A place that, unfortunately for some, has become a familiar abode. Remutaka which translates in English to ‘a place to sit’ seems like an appropriate name for the location that houses over 1,000 inmates, around 10% of the total prison population, which comes in at just under 10,000 people. With the average prison sentence being 562 days, or just over a year and a half according to information compiled by the NZ Law Society in 2018.

So, why are so many people being sent to prison? Studies conducted by the Department of Corrections found that the most common charges for crime in NZ are ‘Offences against justice procedures’ with 20% of all convictions last year being under this banner, this would seem mostly to be related to breaches in bail or parole conditions, so only affects those already familiar with the justice system, but would likely send the person back to prison in cases of parole breaches, or in the case of bail breaches, may add further jail time to whatever they were already being charged with.

The next highest, with 17% of all convictions, is ‘Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences’, most probably these convictions don’t serve prison time, and more likely are fined and given community service. 

Coming in third equal, both with 12% of all convictions are ‘Acts intended to cause injury’ namely assault, which can carry a sentence from as low as six months to 14 years, depending on the severity. And finally, again with 12% of all convictions is ‘Theft and related offences’, e.g. stealing from a store, or stealing a car etc., which can carry a sentence from as low as three months to seven years, depending on the amount stolen.

Interestingly, of all the offence types, the most rare crime, other than homicide, is ‘Robbery, extortion and related offences’, making up only 1% of all convictions last year. While that sounds low, that is still 1,348 people in the country convicted of this type of crime in 2020

Robbery is different from theft, while both are the act of taking someone else’s property unlawfully, robbery differentiates itself by its use of either force or fear which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. An aggravated robbery is the crime of robbery committed by more than one person, or with a weapon, or where a victim is grievously injured.

Robberies began to fall out of popularity in the 1990s due to the increased use of EFTPOS and other cashless methods of paying for goods. Bank robberies also became less attractive to potential criminals due to increased security such as guards, silent alarms and CCTV cameras. Making the likelihood of getting away with a robbery much more improbable.

However, there will always be the criminally minded who believe they can beat the odds and walk out with bags of cash, jump in their getaway vehicle and drive off into the sunset. This is a tale of such folk, the day the Mighty Mongrel Mob robbed the Naenae Westpac Trust Bank.

ORIGINS

Sometime in early 1997. A jail-to-jail conference call was held, from Rimutaka Prison in Upper Hutt to another unknown prison, between Mongrel Mob members to plan a robbery. Orchestrated by a man outside of prison, the Hutt Valley Mongrel Mob chapter head, 36-year-old Mark Mahaki. The job was to ‘hold up’ the Westpac Trust Bank, found at 25 Everest Street in the Lower Hutt suburb of Naenae.

Fig 1. Mongrel Mob Graffiti

Mark had made his way to the top of his Mob’s chapter with over 20 years of loyalty to the gang with a long list of criminal offences to show for it, including numerous convictions of assault and even one previous conviction for aggravated robbery which had already earned him a one year prison sentence.

This previous sentence for robbery hadn’t seemed to deter Mark though from a life of crime, in fact, by his own admission, he identified as a ‘professional robber’.

The pieces for this new planned robbery continued to move into place, the equipment needed was being procured and a plan was being drafted. All the ‘mission’ needed now was a willing participant to carry out the deed.

During this same time, 19-year-old Anton Matenga was sentenced to a short stint in prison for reasons not publicly available.

While inside, Anton ‘hooked up’ with members of New Zealand’s largest gang, and was ultimately recruited to join the Mighty Mongrel Mob. Anton was reportedly hired through the gang’s prison recruitment network and he became a Mob prospect. Furthermore, to show loyalty to the gang and his new ‘brotherhood’, Anton Matenga agreed to carry out the planned Naenae bank robbery.

The operation was set, they now had the equipment, a plan and the people. Four people would be involved in the exercise. On site at the bank would be the man carrying out the armed robbery, 19-year-old Anton Matenga. Joining Anton, driving him to and from the bank as well as relaying information back to ‘HQ’ from a cell phone was Mongrel Mob prospect, 21-year-old Chris Lemalie. The person who came up with the plan and sourced the weapons and ammunition for the armed robbery was Mongrel Mob chapter head, 36-year-old Mark Mahaki. Finally, the person monitoring police communications and relaying that information to the getaway driver Chris Lemalie was Mark’s defacto wife, 37-year-old Rosanne Te Moni.

Everything was ready, everybody knew their role. The date for the robbery was set for the 29th of January 1997, a day you’d think would’ve been celebrated in a different manner, the day Anton Matenga was to be released from prison.

29 JANUARY 1997

29th of January 1997. The morning of. Anton Matenga walked out of prison, through the prison gates to freedom, having served his sentence. There to pick him up was Mongrel Mob prospect Chris Lemalie. Anton jumped in the vehicle and they drove away.

Presumably, the twosome pulled over somewhere to go over the plan. Chris handed Anton a page of instructions, a balaclava, an electronic pager and a loaded double barrel sawn-off shotgun. 

The twosome then drove to the Lower Hutt suburb of Naenae, the location of the Westpac Trust Bank — their target. Anton put the balaclava on, but didn’t pull it over his face, he shoved the shotgun into a backpack and exited the vehicle.

Around 10am, Anton was seen wandering through the nearby Hillary Court Shopping Complex on his way to the bank, the balaclava still on his head and the butt of the shotgun sticking out the top of the bag.

THE ROBBERY

Just after 10am, Anton Matenga burst through the front doors at the Westpac Trust Bank at 25 Everest Avenue, Naenae pointing his loaded shotgun, seemingly forgetting to pull down his balaclava to mask his identity, as it still sat on his head.

Fig 2. The Westpac Trustbank Location in 2021

Inside were two tellers manning the tills, Bill Brown and Cheryl Easton. Also inside the bank were four customers going about their day. Anton instructed his hostages, “Everybody on the fucking ground! This is a stick up!”, waving the shotgun around erratically. The six hostages hit the deck, but Anton then changed his mind, he then screamed at them to get up, now instructing them into the manager’s office.

“Money! I need fucking money!”, Anton now yelled at the tellers. “The safe is on a time lock, we can’t open it”, one of the tellers explained to Anton “Please, just take the money from the tills and then you can go out the back door quietly”.

Around this time, Anton’s pager began to beep. He looked down at the device, it communicated that the police were already on their way from the Naenae Police Station, which was only 200m down the road. 

Anton began to panic, “You’re all going to die!” he now yelled at the hostages, before instructing them to make their way into the back tea room.

Shortly after, a female customer wandered in the building to do some banking, she was quickly confronted by the shotgun wielding Anton who herded her into the back tea room — he now had seven hostages. 

Before the police arrived, another customer walked in the bank, a man. Anton yelled at the man telling him to get into the back room. Instead of complying, the man simply told Anton, “get stuffed”, before spinning his heels and walking out the front door.

Armed Police had now arrived and were surrounding the bank. Time passed as Anton pondered what to do next. As the minutes passed, Anton’s attention seemed to drift away from money and toward other matters he was concerned with.

It would seem, Anton accepted he wasn’t getting away peacefully, and with this information in mind he only became more erratic and emotional. He jotted down something on a note, tears fell from his eyes as he did so.

It was around this time that bank teller Cheryl Easton seemingly felt empathy for the young man, she offered Anton a hug and suggested that she could go negotiate with the police on his behalf. Anton replied, as tears continued streaming from his face, “I’ve fucked up”. A compassionate Cheryl pleaded, “You don’t want to do this, you must have a family and a mother that loves you”. Anton then revealed a piece of his pain, “My mother doesn’t want to know me”.

Anton then gave the note he wrote to one of his hostages, Barbara Spence and instructed her to give this to the police. He then let her, as well as three other hostages including Cheryl Easton, walk out the front door. As Cheryl was leaving, she implored Anton to come with her — a somber Anton refused, believing he had further work to do inside the bank.

Barbara and the three other hostages walked out, she handed the note to the police, the waiting officers scanned the note, it read: “Collect Marjory from 88 [REDACTED] Avenue, Porirua and bring her here, people will start dying if not”.

Back inside, Anton Matenga, still armed with his sawn-off shotgun, dwelled with his three remaining hostages huddled in the back tea room, David Knott, Kathleen Brook and the final bank teller, Bill Brown.

More time passed. Hostage David Knott described Anton’s mood during this time to the Dominion newspaper at a later date, “I thought he was nervous, erratic and very dangerous… He didn’t want the money. He just wanted attention. I got the impression he just wanted to get wasted or to hurt someone else”.

Anton then telephoned the Porirua Police Station, and prompted his hostage, Bill Brown, to confirm that there was a holdup taking place at the Westpac Trust Bank in Naenae, before presumably reiterating his demands, he wanted his Marjory (feasibly a girlfriend/ex-girlfriend or romantic interest, or perhaps a relative, or even his mother) brought to the bank, or people would die.

After ending the call, Anton dialed another number, possibly Marjory, possibly someone from his family, we cannot be certain. However we do know that as the person on the end of the line answered, Anton told them, through tears, “I’ve done it now, you didn’t believe me”.

During the time Anton was on the phone, the three hostages had jimmied the lock open on the back door in the tearoom. David Knott coughed loudly to mask the sounds of Kathleen unlatching the door bolts. The door was now unlocked, it only needed to be opened.

What happened next depends on who you ask. The official police report states that the remaining bank teller, 49-year-old Bill Brown, stood up and pounced at Anton, apparently in an attempt to disarm him. However, eyewitness testimony from hostage David Knott differs, he told the court later, “There was a calm period, I hope that everything would end peacefully. All of a sudden Bill stood up, [and] dived out the door…”

However it happened, what is consistent is, when Bill Brown dove (either for Anton or the door), an erratic Anton Matenga fired his sawn-off shotgun in the direction of the bank clerk. The shotgun blast, at almost point blank range, hit Bill’s head taking the top of it off. David Knott described the moment later for the court, “The concussion knocked my head sideways and blood and bone and brains went past me and hit the wall”.

David then grabbed the other hostage, Kathleen Brook, and together they burst through the unlocked back door, “I had just seen someone’s head blown off — nothing would have stopped me from going out that door”, David concluded in court. 

The pair was then quickly pounced on by waiting armed police and they were escorted to safety.

19-year-old Anton Matenga stood inside the bank, alone, covered in blood and gore. Moments passed, something wandered through his mind, whatever it was, it brought Anton to drop the shotgun, put his hands in the air and march out of the bank. As he exited and encountered the police, he pleaded, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, I’ve just got out of Rimutaka!”.

TRIAL

It would seem that in the aftermath of the ‘botched’ bank robbery, the police put the puzzle together rather swiftly, the ‘mastermind’ behind the robbery and Hutt Valley Mongrel Mob head Mark Mahaki, was arrested, along with his de facto wife Roseanne Te Moni and the getaway driver, Chris Lemalie.

Anton Matenga was charged with kidnapping, aggravated robbery and the murder of 49-year-old Bill Brown. The remaining three accused were charged with being party to aggravated robbery and being party to murder. They all pleaded not guilty.

The trial commenced on the 20th of May 1997 and continued for approximately two weeks. During that time, witnesses were called to help the jury piece together the puzzle that is this crime. Who was involved? What were their roles? How culpable was each individual?

At the conclusion of the crown’s case, Anton Matenga was asked once more to plead either guilty or not guilty to the charges he stood in court for. He pled guilty to the kidnapping charge but maintained a not guilty plea to aggravated robbery and the murder of Bill Brown.

On the 4th of June 1997, the jury left to deliberate. They returned two days later, all four accused were found guilty of aggravated robbery. In regards to the murder charge, Anton Matenga and Chris Lemalie were found guilty of murder, however, ‘mastermind’ Mark Mahaki and his de facto wife Roseanne Te Moni were found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Anton Matenga and Chris Lemalie were sentenced to life for the murder of Bill Brown plus 10 years for the aggravated robbery. As Chris Lemalie was led down the hall away from court, he shouted “arseholes!” and a loud bang was heard.

‘Mastermind’ Mark Mahaki was sentenced to 14 years for manslaughter, plus 10 years for aggravated robbery. Roseanne Te Moni, for her role of monitoring police communications during the crime, was sentenced to 10 years for the manslaughter, plus 7 years for the robbery.

Nadia Brown, the wife of the murdered Bill Brown, was there the day the four were found guilty. She told the Dominion that her husband Bill was a big believer in the justice system and would rest easy knowing those involved were given a fair trial, “I wish it hadn’t happened but I’m glad he was convicted of murder”. 

Nadia’s father, Ron Free told the Dominion that the family were pleased with the guilty verdict but empathised with the families of the convicted, “They feel the sort of loss we feel”.

APPEALS

Mark Mahaki and Roseanne Te Moni appealed their sentences based in part on the belief that due to them not being present at the scene of the crime, their culpability should be seen as lesser. The Court of Appeal delivered a verdict on this matter on the 8th of April 1998, and wrote in regards to Mark’s culpability, Ms Ord submitted that given particularly that Mahaki was not present at the scene, his level of culpability should be regarded as at the lower end of the scale. We are quite unable to accept that submission. To the contrary, having recruited an inexperienced young man to carry out a bank robbery, on a basis that had him entering a bank alone, with a loaded weapon, he launched an enterprise full of danger for bank staff and customers. We do not propose to give the slightest encouragement to any view that those who mastermind serious crimes of this kind can lessen their culpability by remaining a safe distance from the action”.

In regards to Roseanne Te Moni and her culpability the court wrote, “From the point of view of personal circumstances there is much more to be said on behalf of Te Moni. She is aged 38, with sons aged 18, 15 and 12. For 9 years she has lived with Mahaki. The pre-sentence report described this relationship as violent and controlling, Te Moni saying that she felt intimidated to the point where she had little ability to make her own choices or decisions. The writer of the report had independent testimony regarding the violence and abuse suffered, clearly pointing to Te Moni’s situation as a battered spouse… While we have given only a brief summary it is apparent that Te Moni has suffered a difficult and dysfunctional life, heavily overlaid by both the nature of her relationship with Mahaki, and the latter’s gang associations. From remarks made during sentencing it is evident that the Judge had these circumstances in mind and took them into account in fixing a term significantly below Mahaki’s… That said however we have been persuaded that compared with Mahaki’s 14, Te Moni’s 10 year sentence valued the extent of her culpability disproportionately. Accordingly we allow her appeal, quash the sentences, and replace them with terms of 9 years for manslaughter, and 6 years for aggravated robbery”.

AFTERMATH

We can find little about the perpetrators of this crime post 1997. We don’t know if they are still in prison or have been released. Some quick math shows that Roseanne Te Moni should have been released in 2012, if not before that, and Mark Mahaki’s 24 year sentence would be ending in 2021, if he hasn’t been released already. 

Anton Matenga and Chris Lemalie, having been sentenced to life in prison, and, in theory, should still be serving their sentence. The only news we can find post 1997 about Anton Matenga is in regards to an incident inside Rimutaka Prison in 2012.

Reportedly, according to the NZ Herald, Anton was lying in bed when he was confronted by four men who entered his cell, they then held him down and attacked him. This was allegedly due to ‘a hit’ being put out on Anton due to a belief that he ‘narked’ on another prisoner to the guards. 

While the beating was transpiring, prison guards came in to protect Anton, at this point, the apparent leader of the group yelled, “let’s go all out”, then stomped on Anton’s head, rendering him unconscious.

The violence continued, the leader then did a roundhouse kick to one of the guard’s heads, before kicking the downed guard in the head until he was unconscious. Eventually the men were subdued. However, the attacked guard reportedly suffers an ongoing brain injury from the attack.

CONCLUSION

The Naenae Westpac Trust Bank never reopened after the murder of Bill Brown. Westpac announced in February 1997 that it couldn’t ask its staff to work in a place with a history so grim, and its operations were merged with its Lower Hutt office. Now found at 25 Everest Street is the local Naenae bakery.

Fig 3. 25 Everest Street in 2021

The case of ‘The Naenae Bank Robbery’ is a lesson that every action has a reaction, and furthermore those consequences may forever affect the rest of our lives. Even if murder was never the motive when entering the Westpac Trust Bank that day, it is a consequence of walking in to a location with a loaded shotgun, it is a consequence of joining the Mighty Mongrel Mob, which was a consequence of entering prison. 

This story reminds us of lyrics from the Immortal Technique song ‘Dance with the Devil’, A song that perfectly encapsulates this concept of choice and consequence. The song tells the story of a low level drug dealer who wants to move up the gang’s hierarchy. One night, with his gang, they kidnap and gang rape an unknown woman. The man is then prompted to shoot the woman for being a witness to the rape, before ending her life, he pulls the shirt cover away from the woman’s face, only to look into the eyes of his own mother.

The song concludes with the man killing himself because he couldn’t live with what he had done, accompanied with the haunting lyrics: 

So when the devil wants to dance with you, you better say never,
Because the dance with the devil might last you forever.

Fig 4. Immortal Technique – Dance With The Devil

SOURCES

Internet Articles
Sensible Sentencing Trust, THE QUEEN v MARK TAITO MAHAKI ROSEANNE TE MONI, https://offenders.sst.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Mahaki-Te-Moni-Appeal-Notes-Record-for-Chris-Lemalie.pdf
NZ Herald, Rimutaka inmate attacked for narking court told, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/rimutaka-inmate-attacked-for-narking-court-told/NJITKVORJ6W6ULAHLYZS32VUQU/
The Dominion Post, Crims caught in act by call-tapping, https://www.pressreader.com/new-zealand/the-dominion-post/20080204/281552286545223
Stuff.co.nz, Remutaka correct spelling, says iwi, https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/9967900/Remutaka-correct-spelling-says-iwi
Stuff.co.nz, A prison among the pines: Rimutaka Prison’s long shadow on the community it calls home, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/105394319/a-prison-among-the-pines-rimutaka-prisons-long-shadow-on-the-community-it-calls-home
Department of Corrections, Prison facts and statistics – March 2018, https://www.corrections.govt.nz/resources/statistics/quarterly_prison_statistics/prison_stats_march_2018
Te Ara, Robberies and assaults, https://teara.govt.nz/en/violent-crime/page-8
Ministry of Justice, Data tables, https://www.justice.govt.nz/justice-sector-policy/research-data/justice-statistics/data-tables/
New Zealand Law Society, Average prison sentence length increasing, https://www.lawsociety.org.nz/news/legal-news/average-prison-sentence-length-increasing/
Community Law, Facing criminal charges for shoplifting, https://communitylaw.org.nz/community-law-manual/chapter-34-common-crimes/shoplifting/facing-criminal-charges-for-shoplifting/
Community Law, Types of assault charges and penalties, https://communitylaw.org.nz/community-law-manual/chapter-34-common-crimes/assault/
MusixMatch, Dance with the Devil – Immortal Technique, https://www.musixmatch.com/lyrics/Immortal-Technique/Dance-With-the-Devil

Newspapers
NZ Herald, Matenga pleads guilty to bank kidnap charge, 30 May 1997, page A6
Dominion, Matenga told ‘get stuffed’ – witness, 22 May 1997, page 3
Dominion, Two found guilty of teller murder, 6 June 1997, page 1
Dominion, Two found guilty of teller murder, 6 June 1997, page 3

Books
William Minchin, Wellington, the dark side: a location guide to murder, mayhem and nefarious acticvity in the capital city, Steele Roberts Ltd., 2005

Videos
Steven Petrihos, Dance With The Devil – Immortal Technique, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qggxTtnKTMo&ab_channel=StevenPetrihos

2 thoughts on “Case 27: The Naenae Bank Robbery

  1. Thanks team. Great podcast. Jessica. Wow! You are really sounding very confident in your hosting and narration now. Kudos to you!

    Like

  2. filthy coward gang cunts. had the same mis-fortune at Naene National bank. gun to the head and shots fired through window on way out.

    Like

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