Thursday, 4 November 2004 - 11:01am |

Arrest in race hate mail investigation

2 min read

Wellington District and Upper Hutt Police have today arrested a 51-year-old Upper Hutt man on a charge of criminal harassment following an investigation into the sending of letters targeting members of the Islamic community.

Detective Inspector Harry Quinn, Wellington District crime services manager, says that the man will appear in the Upper Hutt District Court this afternoon. Earlier this morning search warrants were executed at a house and a business address in Upper Hutt and the man was taken into custody. Police cannot rule out further charges and are seeking a court remand for several weeks to consider further charges.

"Today’s arrest does not signal the end of this investigation," Detective Inspector Quinn says. "We know there will be other members of the Islamic community who have received similar personally addressed letters. We have been told that many of them were so upset by their content that they destroyed the letters and didn’t tell anyone about them.

"We hope that today’s arrest will give members of the Islamic community, and other ethnic groups, the confidence to approach police and tell us about those letters," Detective Inspector Quinn says.

The investigation was launched in September this year when a Somali community representative contacted the Kilbirnie Community Policing Centre telling staff that some Somali women had received unsolicited letters which were extremely offensive to them. Some of the letters contained pieces of processed pork meat attached to the text.

Detective Inspector Quinn says the Strategic Investigation Group of the Wellington District CIB started inquiries into these cases and uncovered further complaints.

Comparison of the September letters linked those complaints to previous reports of offensive letters being received in April, June, July and August. Most of the letters targeted Somali women. However, there were also a number of letters received by Islamic organisations whose members represent many different ethnic groups.

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Police are restrained from divulging details of their investigation or from displaying details of the letters because of the pending court hearings. Police are satisfied that only one person was responsible for the authorship of the letters.

"It is clear from our investigation that the recipients of the letters were very upset by what was contained in them," Detective Inspector Quinn says. "Many of our complainants expressed fears for their safety and the safety of their children because of the letters’ contents."

Detective Inspector Quinn thanked community leaders who had helped police with inquiries which led to today’s arrest.

"The clear message to come from this investigation is that police, ethnic and faith based groups can and must work together to overcome incidents of this nature.

"These sorts of incidents cannot go unchecked and police encourage people to report them as soon as possible. We want to nip this type of problem in the bud before they escalate and cause further distress."

There is no connection between the letters and the desecration of Jewish graves which has occurred in the Wellington region in recent months.


Released by:

Kaye Calder
Wellington Police District communications manager
Tel: 04 496 3464 or 0274 373 020