WARNING: This story contains evidence of a sexual nature which some readers may find upsetting


The 23-year-old man who raped a young Blenheim schoolgirl has been named as a seasonal worker from Vanuatu.


Name suppression lapsed at midday today for Steven Tari Tambean Garae who pleaded guilty last week to charges of rape and unlawful sexual connection over the April attack.


The Crown said earlier the offending was “the stuff of nightmares”.

The facts of what happened can now be revealed.

According to an agreed summary of facts released to media by the Crown, the Vanuatu national arrived in New Zealand less than six months earlier on a Seasonal Limited Work Visa that was valid until the end of April this year.

At 9.25am on Sunday, April 2 Garae was walking along Dillons Point Rd in Blenheim.

The victim, an 11-year-old girl, was out riding her bike with a friend the same age, who was riding a scooter.

Garae followed them and approached as they got close to the train station on Sinclair St where he began talking to the victim.

He walked alongside her for about 100 metres until they reached a public toilet at the train station car park.

Garae then grabbed the young girl by her wrist and pulled her toward the toilet block where the incidents that led to the charges of unlawful sexual connection happened, followed by rape which left the girl physically injured.

The victim was forcibly held down but tried to kick Garae during the attack that lasted for seven minutes before he ran from the scene.

A concerned member of the public contacted police and Garae was found and arrested an hour later. He claimed “the sex was consensual” before later admitting he “forced the victim to have sex with him”.

Garae appeared in the Nelson District Court last week via video link from where he was being held in custody and entered guilty pleas through an interpreter, after it was clear to Judge Tony Zohrab he had a full understanding of the process.

Garae was initially charged with raping a female aged under 12, abduction for sex with a girl aged under 12 and two charges of unlawful sexual connection with a female he initially told the police was consensual.

The charge of abduction was withdrawn and Garae pleaded guilty to a charge of rape and two of sexual violation, following a concerted effort by the court to ensure justice was delivered against challenging language barriers.

Defence lawyer Emma Riddell said at an earlier hearing the defendant “doesn’t use words well”.

Members of the girl’s support network attended last week’s hearing via video link from Blenheim holding hands when guilty pleas were entered.

Judge Zohrab said at an earlier hearing the Crown had identified a number of aspects of the offending that made it very bad, including the effect on the young victim.

“What you have done to this girl is very bad,” he told Garae.

The victim impact statement confirmed the offending had had a significant impact on the girl’s wider family and others in the community.

Police said at the time of the arrest, she was receiving support.

The Crown’s position in support of lifting name suppression, given the case was a matter of high public interest, was opposed by Riddell on the grounds of the risk of endangerment to the defendant and continued concerns about the state of his mental health.

The Crown said Corrections was adept at managing risk and that it was “highly unlikely” the defendant’s identity remained unknown.

Judge Zohrab acknowledged last week the potential for extreme hardship or the potential for endangerment, but there were no reports to confirm Riddell’s concerns for Garae’s mental health.

Out of an abundance of caution, Judge Zohrab granted the interim order, to allow time to seek the relevant information.

Garae was remanded back into custody for sentencing in the Blenheim District Court on October 12.

 – Tracy Neal, Open Justice reporter 


SOURCE:  Star News