On Christmas Eve, Lewis Robertson used security codes given to him by a security guard to steal $50,000 from The Warehouse. Days later, some of the money and Robertson’s skeletal remains were found on a beach in North Canterbury. reports Blair Ensor.
Under cover of darkness, Lewis Robertson approached The Warehouse in Richmond, near Nelson, carrying a large duffel bag and a hammer he had bought from a hardware store the day before.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the 37-year-old had traveled south from the North Island and turned up unannounced at the Giblin St home of Jennifer Valk, his cousin’s partner.
There, a plan was hatched to rob the warehouse, where Valk had worked as a security guard since February.
* A burglary, a body and money on a beach: The mysterious death of Lewis Robertson
* Burglar’s ‘largely planned’ raid costs Bunnings Warehouse over $300,000
* Gone in 60 Seconds: A gang of car thieves steal classic cars
The 34-year-old was among only 10 people who knew the codes to two safes in a locked office, known to employees as the “cash desk”.
On the evening of December 23, Valk helped another staff member secure the day’s receipts in the safes before heading home for the day.
Shortly after midnight on Christmas Eve, Robertson left his house and walked the mile to the warehouse.
Valk was nervously awake in his bed. She had given him the codes for the safes.
Robertson scaled an exterior ladder outside the warehouse, climbed onto the roof, and forced open a window. Once inside, he headed to the cashier room and used the hammer to smash the door open. He then opened the safes using the codes provided by Valk and filled his gym bag with cash for a total of $50,808.
At 2 a.m., Robertson was back at Valk’s. He showed Valk and his cousin the money and gave her $3,000 for her role in the crime.
Later that day, Robertson was driven to Blenheim by his cousin, where it appears he purchased a Subaru sedan for around $4,000.
He then drove south along State Highway 1 and was last seen alone in Amberley on Christmas Day.
In the days that followed, locals began to find cash strewn among the rocks and sand at nearby Leithfield Beach, about 40km north of Christchurch.
On January 6, a woman walking her dog at the north end of the beach came across what appeared to be the partial skeletal remains of a person during high tide.
Other body parts washed ashore in the days that followed.
Investigators eventually established, with the help of forensic testing, that the remains, and a Subaru sedan found abandoned several miles north at Amberley Beach, belonged to Robertson.
Around $11,000 in tickets stolen from The Warehouse, found in and around a bag on Leithfield Beach, were turned over to police by a good Samaritan.
Some of the stolen money in circulation is believed to have been pocketed by others who ventured onto the beach to try their luck.
Due to the circumstances of Robertson’s death and the events leading up to it, the police devoted significant resources to piecing together his final movements to ensure he had not been murdered.
It is believed to have entered the water on December 26, but it is unclear where exactly.
Detective Sergeant Dan Isherwood, the officer in charge of the investigation, said there was no evidence to suggest Robertson was the victim of foul play and his death was not being treated as suspicious.
A coroner’s inquest would determine how he died.
Given the small group of people who knew the codes for The Warehouse safes, the police quickly focused on Valk.
She told them she knew what she had done was wrong, but offered no explanation for her actions.
Security footage at The Warehouse confirmed Robertson’s role in the burglary.
He and Valk were jointly charged with the crime, according to court documents.
Valk first appeared in Nelson District Court on January 17. On Friday, she pleaded guilty and was released on bail to be sentenced next month.
The burglary at The Warehouse was far from Robertson’s first foray into crime.
His file lists convictions for theft, fraud, drunk driving, threatening to kill a partner and breaching a protective order.
In January 2019, Robertson deactivated an alarm and broke into a rural home in Hastings – stealing firearms, ammunition, a bank card and two locked safes containing valuable jewelry, AFP reported. Hawke’s Bay Today era.
He was sentenced to two years and three months in prison for what his lawyer called a crime of opportunism.