Prison only remedy for crime spree
A jailed 19-year-old Hamilton man who seriously injured a woman in a drunken accident has pleaded guilty to a slew of charges, but it is cold comfort to the mother whose daughter has been left in a "prison" of her own.
Marcus James Heappey appeared in Hamilton District Court yesterday to enter guilty pleas to four charges – possession of explosives (ammunition), excessive breath alcohol causing injury, careless driving and giving false details.
The charges stemmed from a four-month crime spree that culminated on February 20 in a car accident in Collins Rd in Dinsdale, suburban Hamilton, that left 18-year-old passenger Megan Clark with serious head injuries.
He had other active charges at the time, too, including driving while disqualified, burglary and breaching bail.
Though Heappey did not crash the ute that night, the force of the vehicle losing control was enough to rip up a piece of the tarmac.
Ms Clark was thrown from the vehicle in the process.
Heappey lost his liberty following the accident – after bail breaches and missed court dates – but Ms Clark's mother says her daughter's freedom might forever be restricted.
Hinemoa Zuur, who lives in Lower Hutt, now travels 30 kilometres to Porirua every morning to see her at the Acute Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre.
"My daughter's in prison, she can't even talk and properly express herself any more," she said.
"This guy totally turned our lives upside down."
Ms Clark was in a coma for weeks and her mother said rehabilitation was proving to be a long, tortuous process.
"It's millimetre by millimetre."
Only in the last few weeks has Ms Clark opened one of her eyes, and doctors recently told the family the other one was not responding.
Specialists have been working to understand the extent of her post-traumatic amnesia but there was some relief to see her recognise family members.
Ms Zuur said there was no time frame on a recovery, but they would be lucky to have her home by the end of the year.
Ms Clark had pestered her mum to let her "spread her wings" and complete the second half of a hospitality course in Hamilton.
She had only been in town three weeks when the accident happened.
Her friend Hohepa, who was also in the car that night, told the family Heappey had lit a cigarette while rounding a bend in Collins Rd while driving at excessive speeds.
When the car came to rest Hohepa put Ms Clark in the recovery position before chasing the driver, whom he said fled the scene.
They were fighting when police arrived.
Ms Zuur said the fact Heappey's escalating offending went on for months – even though there was a warrant out for his arrest – was the saddest thing.
And it was only stopped when her daughter was caught in the middle.
She did not want to heap blame on police but said Heappey needed to be forced into drug and alcohol rehabilitation earlier.
Ms Zuur and the rest of Ms Clark's family are planning on attending his sentencing next month.
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