Brothers behind bars, following a series of ill-fated robberies across Hamilton

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Two Hamilton brothers who embarked on a series of violent but poorly executed robberies at dairies and convenience stores have been jailed.

The younger of the two siblings, Ammaru Waaka, 19, learned of his fate when he appeared in Hamilton District Court on Friday – serving five years in prison.

He had previously pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, four counts of assault with intent to steal and three of unlawful seizure of motor vehicles – a sometimes clumsy crime spree that took place over four days in August. Last year.

His older brother Hemitata Tupaea-Waaka, 21, had previously been jailed for five years and four months for his involvement in the robberies. A third co-offender, who cannot be named, was dealt with under the auspices of youth court.

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The trio of transgressors’ trek through Hamilton began at Aberfoyle St, around 1.30am on August 7 last year, when they found, broke into and took off in a Mazda Demio.

At 8:40 a.m. they took this car to the convenience store in Aberdeen, with the obvious intention of robbing it.

However, they were not the first robbers to target the store. Because of this, the dairy had a “locked door policy” in place, whereby customers can only be admitted by an employee who unlocks the front door for them.

The store clerk inside saw the masked trio outside – including Waaka, who was armed with a hammer – and kept the door locked.

Second on the thieves' to-do list was the Masters Avenue Convenience Store.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

Second on the thieves’ to-do list was the Masters Avenue Convenience Store.

Foiled, the three criminals fled. They headed for the Holland Rd Dairy.

This time they were able to enter the door. One of them jumped on the counter and tried to break into the cigarette cabinet before a quick-witted employee activated the store’s fog cannon. Again thwarted, they fled.

They went to Masters Ave Superette, where they finally had success.

The trio tried their luck at the Holland Superette, but left with nothing.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

The trio tried their luck at the Holland Superette, but left with nothing.

After entering, Waaka found the store owner. The older man quickly grabbed his hammer, but Waaka retaliated by punching him in the mouth and “walking” him to the counter, where he forced him to open the cash register and cigarette cabinet.

They took away $17,550 in tobacco products, including 160 packets of cigarettes and 165 packets of tobacco. They also took $450 in cash and the owner’s wallet, containing his Westpac Mastercard and other cards.

The next target was the Grocery Store on Edinburgh Rd, where they were again chased away empty-handed by the store’s fog cannon.

The Demio was found abandoned in Peacockes Rd shortly afterwards.

The Edinburgh Superette was target number three.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

The Edinburgh Superette was target number three.

Two days later, after stealing another Demio, the trio try their luck again, this time at the Irvine Street Dairy. One of the three was now armed with a softball bat, which he swung violently onto the counter as he entered.

But again, a fog cannon was activated, and again the three left with nothing. The second Demio was found dumped in Prisk St.

A third Demio was then stolen. The three thieves drove him to the Vercoe Food Center on Vercoe Rd. Despite threatening the store’s employees with the bat, the thieves once again left empty-handed, chased away by the store’s fog cannon .

The Irvine Street Dairy was also targeted by the trio.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

The Irvine Street Dairy was also targeted by the trio.

On this occasion they were followed by a member of the public to nearby Portal Cres where they were seen dumping the Demio and heading for their own car, parked a short distance away at Alanbrooke Pl .

Tupaea-Waaka was found by police on August 14 and he quickly admitted his involvement in the frenzy. Waaka, along with members of his family, surrendered to police at the Hamilton police station on September 2.

In court, Waaka’s lawyer, Gerard Walsh, described him as “a pleasant young man who has clearly taken a big turn in the wrong direction”.

Judge Kim Saunders, who has benefited from pre-sentence and cultural reporting, agreed with Walsh’s assessment.

The Vercoe Road Food Center was the last store the trio attempted to rob.  Soon after, their caper fell apart.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

The Vercoe Road Food Center was the last store the trio attempted to rob. Soon after, their caper fell apart.

Waaka was obviously smart and, tellingly, his employer liked him so much that he would keep his job available so he could return to it when he got out of prison.

“That says a lot for you,” the judge said, and urged him to return to the proposed job.

“Your future can be as bright as your past.”

Judge Saunders took a starting point of 10 years and six months in prison. She discounted Waaka’s guilty pleas by 25% and subtracted an additional 15% to reflect the findings of a cultural report on her past; and an additional 10% in recognition of his youth and remorse.

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