A security guard who gave a burglar codes to two safes filled with more than $50,000 was eager to please and easily manipulated, a court has heard.
And, according to a judge, it was a serious breach of trust that may have resigned her to a life of unemployment.
Jennifer Valk, 34, was sentenced to 12 months of intensive supervision in Christchurch District Court on Wednesday for her role in a saga that her lawyer says reads like a movie script.
“This is a very unusual case,” said his lawyer Dave Holloway.
Late last year Valk gave Lewis Robertson, an associate of a man she had met through a dating site, the codes to two safes at The Warehouse in Richmond, near Nelson, where she had worked as a security guard since February.
* ‘I was tricked,’ says security guard who gave store security codes to burglar who stole $50,000
* Inside work: A security guard gave security codes to a burglar found dead on the beach
* A burglary, a body and money on a beach: The mysterious death of Lewis Robertson
In the early hours of December 24, 37-year-old Robertson stormed into the retail business, accessed the cash register, and used the codes to steal over $50,000.
Valk received $3,000 for his part in the plot.
Robertson left town that day and traveled south. In a bizarre turn of events, parts of her body began washing up on a beach in North Canterbury around a fortnight later. Police do not believe his death was suspicious.
Skeletal remains were first discovered at high tide on Leithfield Beach on January 6 by a dog walker.
Valk has already said Thing she was “tricked” into handing over the security codes to Robertson by the man she met online.
She alleges that this man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, pocketed more than $19,000 from the burglary, and she does not understand why he has not been charged.
Earlier this month, police said they were continuing to “investigate the culpability of the other parties involved”.
During his sentencing, Holloway admitted that Valk had played a vital role in the burglary – unbeknownst to him, it would not have happened.
However, in the days following the crime, she felt guilty and confessed what she had done, removing any suspicion of her colleagues.
Holloway said Valk suffered from low self-esteem, was known to be easily manipulated, and seemed eager to please.
He asked the judge to consider his early guilty plea and his previously unblemished criminal record.
Judge David Ruth said Valk’s offense was a “huge breach of trust”.
“You may have put yourself in a position where it may be difficult or impossible for you to get another job.”
The judge noted her cooperation with the police, the degree to which she had been manipulated and the efforts she had made to rehabilitate herself.
He also said, without going into details, that “you didn’t have a very good start in life which may have had an impact on delinquency”.
With no suitable address for house or community detention, and the difficult prospect of finding one, Justice Ruth opted instead to impose a sentence of intensive supervision, which he would supervise.
While Valk had already repaid the $3,000 she had earned from the burglary, he ordered her to pay an additional $3,000 over the next five years – the maximum she was likely able to afford.
Valk has already said Thing that Robertson showed up unannounced at her Richmond home about a week before Christmas. She didn’t know him, but he said he knew the man she met online, who was living with her at the time.
In the days that followed, a plan was hatched to rob The Warehouse.
Valk said Robertson’s associate promised her a relationship if she handed over the security codes. The proceeds of crime would help repair his car, which he had recently crashed causing several thousand dollars in damage.
She says she felt intimidated by the two men and couldn’t say no.
Within hours of the burglary, Robertson’s associate drove Robertson to Blenheim before taking a ferry to Wellington.
He denies any involvement in the burglary.
“If I had $19,000, bro, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now — I’d probably be living,” the man previously said.
After Robertson was dropped off in Blenheim by his associate, he bought a Subaru sedan for $4,000 and drove south along State Highway 1.
He was last seen alone in Amberley on Christmas Day.
In the days that followed, locals began finding cash among the rocks and sand on nearby Leithfield Beach, about 40 kilometers 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.
It’s the only money recovered from the burglary so far.
Some of the stolen money in circulation is believed to have been pocketed by others who ventured onto the beach to try their luck.
Police had previously said they had carried out a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Roberton’s death and there was no suggestion that he was the victim of foul play.
It is believed to have entered the water on December 26, but it is unclear where or why.
A coroner would determine how he died, they said.