A sailing fan holidaying in Sydney spotted what he thought was a stolen yacht through a telescope – and it resulted in the arrest of a couple of fugitives.
Felix Fielding watched the yacht limp in last night with a broken mast from the balcony of his friend’s home at Avoca Beach, north of Sydney. After watching it for 10 minutes through a telescope, he thought it may be “Harlech” – a yacht which had been reported stolen from New Zealand’s Bay of Islands on sailing website LiveSailDie 10 days ago.
The $152,000 yacht had been commandeered by Paul James Bennett, 52, and his partner Simone Anne Wright, 38.
Fielding, 19, checked back with the website to be sure of his suspicions. He sent pics to LiveSailDie, which then sent them on to the yacht’s owners, who confirmed the vessel was theirs.
By 7.15pm, Herlach was off Avoca Beach, with Fielding and a couple of mates following from the shore in a car.
When the boat looked to be seeking shelter on Box Harbour, LiveSailDie updated NSW Police and they boarded her in the mouth of Cowan Cover.
“They [Bennett and Wright] probably would never have thought they’d get picked up in Sydney but there is always someone watching,” Fielding told Stuff.co.nz.
Today, Bennett appeared in Downing Centre District Court today charged with receiving stolen goods from outside New South Wales and an outstanding warrant. Wright was released pending further inquiries.
Live Sail Die announced the breakthrough on their Facebook page:
The couple face questioning from New Zealand police over an alleged $250,000 fraud involving Canterbury helicopter company HeliPower and a suspected sex attack on a teenage girl in the late 2000s.
Their capture brought relief for HeliPower director Michael Jacomb and the alleged sexual assault victim, who said she will “sleep more peacefully at night”.
Even Bennett’s father was happy his son had been caught.
“He must have known he was going to get caught one day and the sooner the better from our point of view,” he told Stuff. Until yesterday, Bennett hadn’t been confirmed sighted since June 3 last year.
Jacomb confirmed that Fielding would be getting some of the $50,000 reward HeliPower had offered for information about the couple, and was “looking for a damn good film director”.
As for the yacht’s owners, Carol and Steve Holland, they are obviously relieved that they’ll get their boat but, but also “amazed” that the fugitive couple managed to sail it from New Zealand to Australia with limited sailing knowledge.
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