Taranaki woman kidnapped at knifepoint by former partner

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Taranaki woman kidnapped at knifepoint by former partner
Taranaki woman kidnapped at knifepoint by former partner

A Taranaki woman drew on her strength as a mother to escape her former partner who kidnapped her at knifepoint and threatened to crash the vehicle they were in to kill her.

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“All I could think about was my son,” she told New Plymouth District Court at the sentencing of her abductor, Damien Mark Wood, 32. “Never being able to see him again, never being able to hold him again, having him grow up without me.”

The woman fought back tears as she recounted the November 21, 2020, ordeal which had her believe she would die that night.

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“My son kept me strong to fight back. Thinking of him helped me figure out a plan to get back to him.”

Through her victim impact statement, the woman told the Tuesday hearing how she “outsmarted” her ex and managed to escape with “only” a slap to the face.

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Her nightmare began at about 8.45pm while she and a male friend were at a rural address in Ōpunakē, South Taranaki.

At this time Wood began sending text messages to the male victim.

Shortly after, the pair heard burnouts being performed outside the address.

“I knew it was you as you threatened me and stalked me for six months prior,” the woman recalled.

Her “heart immediately began to race” as she thought: “I’m either going to get seriously hurt or I’m going to lose my life tonight.”

According to the Crown summary of facts, the male victim was then confronted by Wood at the front door.

Wood punched the man in the face several times while threatening to “snap his neck”.

Wood then went inside and screamed at the woman to get into his car or he would continue the assault on the male victim.

The woman begged Wood to stop, telling him she was scared but her cries were in vain as he continued to demand she get into the vehicle.

With little option, the woman conceded – only to have Wood then pull out a “large” knife with a modified extended handle, about one-metre in length, and point it at her as a fourth person at the scene attempted to help her flee.

Wood left the address with the woman in the vehicle.

There then followed nearly two hours of his reckless driving amid threats he would crash the car to kill them both, and that he would sell the woman to the Mongrel Mob gang.

He continued to drive erratically and, on several occasions, pulled the handbrake, causing the car to spin out.

During this time, the woman made three attempts to escape, with Wood grabbing her each time and slapping her face during her final effort.

Eventually, she convinced Wood to return to the Ōpunakē address to retrieve her car on the basis she would then follow Wood to his home.

He obliged and when they arrived the police were there waiting for him.

At Wood’s sentencing, the woman said addressing Wood helped prove to herself she could “do something brave”.

Judge Gregory Hikaka acknowledged that she was indeed courageous.

But her statement demonstrated that was not the first time she had shown such courage.

“I was scared of you for a very long time before I found the bravery to seek help and end our relationship. I knew you were a dangerous person,” she said.

“You constantly used your status as a Mongrel Mob member to put fears in my head to gain control over me.”

The two had been in a relationship for around one year before it ended in May 2020. The woman was protected by an order, in which Wood was the respondent, at the time of the kidnapping.

Defence lawyer Patrick Mooney argued for an end sentence of home detention, stating Wood was remorseful, was actively addressing his anger and mental health issues, and had served 12 months’ electronically monitored bail and nine weeks in custody.

Crown prosecutor Laura Blencowe submitted that only a sentence of imprisonment would suffice, questioning Wood’s remorse and efforts made to rehabilitate.

On admitted charges of assault with intent to injure, kidnapping, possessing an offensive weapon, contravening a protection order and male assaults female, Judge Hikaka took a start point of five years’ imprisonment.

Following allowances for guilty pleas, remorse, time spent on bail, and steps taken to rehabilitate, Wood was jailed for three years.

The woman put her face in her hands and audibly wept from the public gallery as he was taken away to begin his sentence.

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