Roast Busters inquiry drags on

KELLY DENNETT

Last updated 05:00 19/10/2014
Roast Busters

VILIFIED: Joseph Parker, left, and Beraiah Hales were last year identified as the leaders of a group known as the Roast Busters, after they boasted online of having sex with drunken, underage girls.

Police say they’re still “gathering information” on teen gang the Roast Busters but one young woman who gave statements about the group says she hasn’t heard from investigators in six months.

It’s been a year since the activities of the West Auckland teens came to light, with videos of them boasting of having sex with drunk, underage girls.

But charges have yet to be laid against the group members, whose ringleaders Beraiah Hales and Joseph Parker came under intense scrutiny because of their boasting of their exploits on social media.

A 17-year-old who spoke on condition of anonymity, has detailed in an open letter (below) commissioned by Fairfax NZ alleged abuses by one of the group when she was 14 years old, which she said had ruined her life and left her distrustful of men.

She said she made two statements to police and was upset she’d been pressured into disclosing personal information about her experiences for a probe that had gone nowhere.

Disheartened by how long the police had taken, she declined to press charges.

Following media inquiries in early November last year police admitted the Roast Busters had been under investigation since 2011 but had not been charged with any offence.

Detective Inspector Bruce Scott said there had been no charges due to a lack of evidence and formal statements.

Within days it became known four victims had been interviewed by a police Child Protection Team, including a 13-year-old who made a formal statement on camera.

Police Minister Anne Tolley ordered an independent review of the investigation, assistant police commissioner Malcolm Burgess publicly apologised, Facebook vigilante groups cropped up and a change.org online petition gathered more than 136,000 signatures calling on Prime Minister John Key to “bust the Roast Busters”.

In a statement, police said the process was ongoing. They declined to discuss any further details, including a time frame for the investigation, why the investigation was considered “complex”, whether police were actively monitoring the boys and whether any more victims had come forward.

“The information gathered across the course of the investigation is still being assessed by police, following a review by a Crown legal team,” the spokeswoman said.

“We have previously said this is a complex and sensitive investigation which is reflected in the timescale involved. The outcome of the inquiry will be communicated publicly once all the relevant investigative processes have been completed.”

Newly appointed Police Minister Michael Woodhouse also declined to discuss the investigation, and in another statement, a spokeswoman said Woodhouse had been advised by police that the operation was still a priority and “significant” resources had been dedicated to it.

Fairfax NZ approached the families of Hales and Parker for comment but received no response.

According to Hales’ Facebook page he’s still in Auckland, has completed a course of study and is in a relationship.

Rape Prevention Education executive director Kim McGregor said little had changed when it came to funding sexual violence programmes in schools but believed there had been a “visible cultural shift” in young men’s attitudes, noting a huge turnout of men marching in sexual violence campaigns.

She said the police’s initial response to the Roast Busters would have “put people off” reporting sexual crime and said the longer an investigation or court process went on, the likelier it was that complainants were “lost”.

She wasn’t surprised the victim Fairfax NZ had spoken to had declined to press charges.

“So many times survivors drop out of the criminal justice process because they can’t keep putting their lives on hold and going through this traumatic, brutal and often abusive system.”

‘HE WOULD LIE TO ME CONSTANTLY’

He was the popular guy, everyone was after him. Maybe for his looks and charms. But not me – I was the lucky girl who had his eyes and love. I really trusted him. He made me feel special and safe. From having no friends and being bullied for my appearance, to getting the most popular guy in school, I was over the moon. The happiest girl around.

But things started to change. He believed he could have anything he wanted, when he wanted it. The way I was treated, talked to and even looked at changed completely. I felt I couldn’t ever express my feelings. I was trapped and forced into feeling as if ‘I have to do this, I have to do as I’m told’. There became a pattern. I was there to fulfil his needs when he wanted. I was there to do as I was told but worst of all, I received nothing but lies and betrayal in return.

My protector had become unfaithful, forceful and unpredictable. I had a powerful gut feeling he was seeing other girls and I was right, I was just too caught up in my own messed up feelings that I didn’t realise. After a small argument and a bit of confusion and broken hearts we were over. After we broke up the police became involved. It felt like it was too much to handle. It pushed me back in time and made me feel like I was doing a role play of the past.When I talked to the police I felt like they didn’t believe a thing. Something about there not being enough proof or witnesses. So I gave up and thought ‘Why am I wasting my time?’ I went through quite a few interviews and I told them about my experience.

They were constantly on my back, asking for everything I knew, even if I didn’t feel comfortable with it.

I felt I had to.

About six months ago I was asked if I wanted to press charges but I turned the offer down because by then time had passed and I was finally over it. I knew if I had gone ahead with it then this whole situation would never go away. I didn’t have the energy for that.

But what I did do was write a formal statement about the case, twice, in three years. I wasn’t assured by the police anything was happening or going to happen. I felt like I was wasting my time. Part of me is thinking, I don’t care any more and I’m over it, but another part of me is wishing for reasonable closure.

I feel like since the situation ruined my life, then there’s a high chance many others are feeling the same. I’m back on track now but I’ll never forget what happened. This whole journey has made a huge impact on my life in so many ways, ways I can’t even explain. If I was to give advice to any girl out there I would definitely say, if you ever feel like you can’t express your feelings, then think again. No matter who you’re with, no matter what people say, you are your own person and only you matter.

He was a cool guy in many ways, but back then I didn’t think of him as an abuser. He wasn’t violent, but at the end of the day he was a guy and he could easily overpower me. I was mentally, emotionally and physically abused on many different occasions. He would lie to me constantly, use me, and pretend he only loved me.

– Sunday Star Times

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