Leighton Gavin Brian Fairbairn
Appeal Court decisionhere
THE PRESS, 19th February 2003
Most of Leighton Gavin Brian Fairbairn's desperate, dangerous crimes were committed during 17 months on the run as an outlaw. He was living on a knife-edge, taking drugs, and involved with serious criminals. His criminal history -- there is very little of it -- gives little warning of the kind of violence he was capable of when he became a fugitive. But that violence has now earned him a 15-year jail term, with no chance of parole for a decade.
A woman with a baby was crying in the back of the Christchurch High Court when she heard Justice John Hansen say how long 25-year- old Fairbairn's sentence would be. Problems with Fairbairn began to show at school. He was dyslexic, could not read or write, and it was suspected that as a young teenager he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. At the age of 13, he began to abuse drugs and alcohol. At the age of 14, his education effectively ceased.
Even so, before the current spate of offending began, his only conviction for violence was a charge of threatening behaviour. Ten years ago a close friend died, and Fairbairn went into a state of depression. He has also been diagnosed with social phobia. It means that he is unable to relate to people in social situations, and he believes that people are thinking bad things about him. He becomes suspicious, paranoid.
Things went seriously wrong on November 26, 1999, when he got into an argument with his girlfriend, and a man intervened. Fairbairn says it was the other man who struck the first blow, but his reaction was to take up a knife and stab him in the back, rupturing his spleen. Fairbairn originally claimed self-defence, but the man said the knifing happened after they had shaken hands and made up. Fairbairn was arrested, but was released on bail and absconded to begin 17 months on the run.
He was on drugs, being helped by his friends, and associating with some serious criminals. When two men wanted a stolen car and a firearm to rob the Akaroa bank in October 2001, Fairbairn supplied them. He says he did not know that the crime was to be the bank robbery. A month later, there was a dispute over a car involving a relative of Fairbairn. He and another man kicked their way into a house at 3.30am, and, while the other man bailed up the other two witnesses in another room, Fairbairn beat up the target of the attack using a BMX bike.
The witnesses heard the victim screaming "as though he was being tortured", and heard Fairbairn tell him to "keep your toes still or we will start on your teeth". By early last year, the police were closing in on the Akaroa bank robbers, and Fairbairn was afraid that a man involved would implicate him. Fairbairn and William Michael Goodwin, 27, went to see the man and found him at home with his children. They took him away for what the victim thought was going to be a coffee and a chat, but instead took him to a plantation near Mayfield where Fairbairn shot him four times in the legs with a cut-down . 22 rifle.
They left him badly injured, to crawl for 2 1/2 hours to State Highway 72 to get help. He has been permanently disabled by the kneecapping. The sentencing session yesterday threw up an additional factor: Fairbairn claimed he had been victimised by the man as a child, and the shooting had become revenge for that. Ten days after the shooting, the police Armed Offenders Squad raided the home of a 28-year-old New Brighton mother and found Fairbairn and Goodwin and some of their belongings.
The woman eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of sheltering them to enable them to avoid arrest, and was sentenced to 200 hours of community work.Goodwin faced a similar charge because of the help he gave Fairbairn during his time of the run, and is now in jail for his secondary role in the kidnapping. The bank robbers are doing prison time. One of them was Gordon Ronald Forrest, a New Zealander who has committed between 12 and 14 armed robberies, and has escaped four times from Australian jails. In September, he was jailed for 12 years for the robbery.
Fairbairn's victims were seriously injured and the High Court was told yesterday that some of them are still in pain. The man he beat with the bicycle refused to co-operate with the police, but while Fairbairn was on the run his photograph was published in The Press and one of the witnesses who was at the house that night had recognised him.
Since his arrest, Fairbairn has been placed on anti-depressant medication for the first time, and his defence counsel, Pip Hall, says it has changed his behaviour. "He has become a much calmer person, not resorting to violence without warning," he says. When Justice Hansen sentenced him to 15 years in jail, he mouthed the words, "Thank you".
Date of Birth
Sentenced to 15 years with a 10 year minimum non-parole period in February 2003
Successfully got his minimum non-parole period cut to 7 years 4 months on appeal
Additional Photos & Files
Associated Media Links Leighton Gavin Brian Fairbairn Sentencing Notes
OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
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