“We Didn’t Steal The Van, We Thought It Was Free”

Open Jaw

It was quite a story, but the judge wasn't buying it.

Three German visitors to New Zealand told Christchurch District Court that they believed a van found in a parking lot at CHC - with keys conveniently left in the door - was left there for the free use of backpacking visitors.

The tourists said they had heard while travelling in Australia that backpackers in New Zealand sometimes left their cars behind at the airport if they were unable to sell them before leaving New Zealand.

Travellers have been known to purchase inexpensive vehicles, use them for the duration of their visit and resell them before departure. It's often cheaper than renting.

However, the van taken by the German tourists was actually owned by a company called Lucky Rentals and valued at NZD 10,000 – not exactly a rent-a-wreck. It had been left at the airport earlier in the day by the previous renter. The trio drove off but didn't get very far before police tracked them down.

The court treated their story with skepticism, found them guilty and ordered them to pay NZD 602 damages.

Friedrich Weisbach, 21; Hans Lorenz Steinfurth, 20 and Isabelle Caroline Manna, 21, had arrived in Christchurch from Australia. While they admitted having taken the vehicle, they pointed out it was not an obvious rental van and it had not been left in the rental area of the carpark. So it must have been left for their personal enjoyment!

The judge convicted the 3 and discharged them after they paid the damages.

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