Aaron James Pihema
Nelson Mail, Thursday 4th December 2008
A Richmond man who told a 14-year-old runaway he was a social worker, then drove her to a remote rural location and violently raped her, has been sent to jail for seven and-a-half years. Aaron James Pihema, 39, a security officer, was sentenced in the Nelson District Court on Wednesday, after earlier pleading guilty to a charge of sexual violation by rape. His victim, who is now 17, sobbed as she read her victim impact statement to the court, saying the incident had ruined her life. She said she had gone downhill, and had started stealing and taking drugs and thinking about committing suicide.
The girl said she dreamed about the attack, and saw Pihema's face in dreams of someone killing or raping her. She had since found out that Pihema had hepatitis B, and felt "disgusted" about this. Judge Tony Zohrab said that at the time of the offence in 2005, the victim had run away from home. After staying with friends, she decided to spend the night at Washbourn Gardens in Richmond, as she had nowhere to go. That night, Pihema drove into the gardens' carpark and drove away twice, before finally parking and approaching the victim about midnight. Judge Zohrab said Pihema told the girl he was a social worker and could take her somewhere safe.
Pihema drove her 30 kilometres out of town to the Spooner Range, then drove off the main highway and stopped, saying he needed to look at a map. Judge Zohrab said Pihema raped the victim despite her repeatedly telling him to stop and resisting him. At one stage, Pihema pinned the girl's arms down with one of his arms and held the other around her throat, making it hard for her to breathe. He also held a can of lighter fluid to her face.
Judge Zohrab said that after the rape, Pihema drove the girl back to Richmond. She waited until 7am before telling her mother what had happened. Last year the victim saw Pihema, and police matched a DNA sample with one taken from her earlier. Pihema was arrested in February. Judge Zohrab said there was nothing in Pihema's history to suggest he had tendencies towards such behaviour. He said he was troubled by the fact that Pihema didn't seem to have considered the "awful truth" of what he had done and the "lifetime of sorrow" he had sentenced his victim to.
Defence lawyer Rob Somerville said that while Pihema's behaviour was inexcusable, his life was at a very low ebb at the time of the offending. "He had a serious head injury. He was still presumably getting over it at that stage." Pihema was also in financial trouble, and his relationships with some of his family members were strained. Since then, he had held down a job and was described as reliable and punctual and an excellent employee. Pihema's ex-wife and current partner were in court, and his partner intended to stand by him, Mr Somerville said.
Date of Birth
1969 (D.O.B. is approximate)
Three Strikes Status
Sentenced to 7 years 6 months in December 2008
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OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
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