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May 4, 2009 | by  | in News |
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Alleged roadrager Unitec student

A Unitec student is currently behind bars for allegedly assaulting a 78-year-old grandfather just outside Unitec grounds.

Civil engineering student Bio O’Brien is accused of assaulting Jashmatbai Patel of Te Atatu on Carrington Road on 8 April. The assault, which appeared to be a road rage attack, left Mr Patel in intensive care, and he died the following day in Auckland Hospital.

O’Brien was driving a black BMW and Mr Patel a blue van southwards along Carrington Road on Tuesday April 8 at 7.50am, and the incident happened opposite Gate Four of Unitec.

In Unison was at the site after the incident and noted the two cars—which were cordoned off—did not appear damaged. Police at the scene said it appeared to be a “minor crash”.

O’Brien is accused of jumping from his car and pulling Mr Patel from his vehicle, which reportedly happened in front of dozens of schoolchildren waiting at a bus stop outside Gladstone Primary School. The principal for the school, Dave Shadbolt told The Herald his staff quickly took up positions on the road to divert children so they did not see the scene.

“The man who had been hit was lying on a grass verge, his eyes closed and there was a considerable amount of blood on his face and chest.”

O’Brien, a 27-year-old from the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, who is married with a two-year-old child, has had two appearances in the Auckland District Court with his next scheduled for May 25.

At both appearances he was remanded in custody and his lawyer David Niven did not seek bail.

In an appearance on 27 April, O’Brien hung his head while his lawyer and Judge Allison Sinclair spoke. O’Brien was clean-shaven, with tidy hair, wearing a white shirt, a stark difference to his first appearance where he looked dishevelled.

Civil Engineering classmate Sebastian Rodriguez was surprised to learn who the accused was when shown a photo by In Unison. “He’s good in class, never had any problems, he’s a quiet type.” Mr Rodriguez says.

A friend of O’Brien’s was approached by In Unison, but was not willing to comment, and appeared to be upset when the accused was mentioned.

Likewise, lecturers in the Engineering department were approached but refused to comment on the student. In Unison has been posting updates on the website www.usu.co.nz/inunison, which have sparked heated comments on O’Brien, many calling for him to be expelled from Unitec.

On 14 April ‘Nick’ posted O’Brien’s upbringing probably had something to do with the attack. “It’s occasions like this when I remember that this young guy’s family have probably served him poorly. Sure, he is to blame, but his parents have obviously failed him. More and more [I] think it’s all about parenting and wonder if we should issue breeding licences or something,” he posts.

The following day, ‘Stacey Waitakere’ posted O’Brien should be removed from Unitec under the Student Conduct Statute. “We have policy and procedures that state we as students have an obligation to behave and act appropriately, consistency would be good here.”

On April 16 ‘Samantha’ posts “if it was up to me, Bio O’Brien would be locked up for many years without the modern luxuries inmates have today. Rodney Hide has nailed it, three strikes and you’re out.”

On April 20, Sweeper says the attack could have been an accident. “If Mr O’Brien intended to harm the late victim by repeatedly bashing him, why will he do so on a busy road? If he had intended to put the poor man in a coma or kill him right there on a busy intersection then he has got to be the most stupidest fool on the planet.” The same commenter later calls for proper education on the risks of road rage.

When USU President Greg Powell was asked for comment on this incident, he was subdued, saying “he does not condone violence in any form.”

However, later he wrote on the website, in response to many of the comments; “To Bio, I do no know what was going through your head that day and I am sure you regret taking such drastic measures to show your frustration. Did you not see the man in the van was old? Did you not realise you were beating a loved Husband, Father and Grandfather? And last of all what was it that you saw?”

Unitec has not spoken out to media about Bio O’Brien. Chief executive Rick Ede says the death is “absolutely awful”, but is “a matter of an individual before the courts to face the consequences of alleged actions, it is not up to us to make comment on that.”

He says Unitec cannot give staff and students concerned with O’Brien coming back to Unitec an answer yet. “We will deal with that situation as it arises, I’m not blind to the concerns the staff and students may have over safety,” he says.

“We will act appropriately and accordingly but I’m not going to speculate over something that we don’t even know if it’s going to happen or not.”

It is expected more charges will be laid against O’Brien on May 25.

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