Christchurch supermarket cougher faces more charges

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 May 2020, 4:46PM
Raymond Coombs. (Photo / Supplied)
Raymond Coombs. (Photo / Supplied)

Christchurch supermarket cougher faces more charges

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 May 2020, 4:46PM

A man who filmed himself coughing and sneezing on Christchurch supermarket shoppers during the coronavirus lockdown is facing more charges.

Raymond Gary Coombs, a 38-year-old roofer, was due to be sentenced at Christchurch District Court via audio visual link from custody this afternoon after admitting one charge of offensive behaviour.

But sentencing at Christchurch District Court was unable to go ahead today as the court awaited a specific pre-sentence report.

The court heard that Coombs now faced three more charges, including refusing to provide a blood sample, careless driving, and breach of release conditions.

Defence counsel Kathy Basire asked for Coombs to be remanded without plea on the new charges – and his sentencing adjourned.

Judge Gerard Lynch remanded him in custody to June 16.

Coombs was first arrested after uploading a video on Facebook which showed him pretending to cough on shoppers at Fresh Choice supermarket in Barrington on April 6 – during the nationwide alert level 4 coronavirus lockdown.

He later took down the video and apologised, claiming he'd had too much to drink.

"It was a foolish, insensitive act, and I regret it – I really do," he later said in court.

Fresh Choice Barrington reported the video to police.

Coombs' lawyer at his first appearance said he'd been watching prank videos on YouTube before he recorded the footage in the supermarket.

Judge Jane McMeeken said he owed the country an apology, describing the incident as serious.

She noted that it was not an isolated incident - Coombs had earlier uploaded another video in which he pretended to have the virus. He later tested negative for Covid-19.

"This is an unprecedented time in New Zealand's history … many people are suffering," McMeeken said.

"Your behaviour would've added to that suffering.

"It's vitally important to our country we get out of lockdown as soon as possible. Your actions could've stopped that."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described Coombs as an "idiot".

He was initially facing charges of criminal nuisance and failing to follow a Medical Officer of Health's orders.

The criminal nuisance charge was amended to one of offensive behaviour and the other was dropped.

It's not Coombs first brush with the law over a stupid "prank".

In 2008, Coombs terrorised Christchurch after making bombs with dry ice and soft drink bottles and leaving them at various spots across the city - at Northlands Mall, a service station, a rubbish bin in the city, a planter box at the Palms Mall, and at the bus exchange.

When a cleaner found one of the bottle bombs at Christchurch bus exchange, and started to unscrew its lid, it exploded. The power of the explosion, which was likened to a military thunderflash device, left the cleaner with a permanent disability, suffering from ringing in his ears and headaches from bright lights, a court earlier heard.

An explosion at Northlands Mall caused people to fear part of the building had collapsed.

Coombs admitted what his lawyer called "a prank gone wrong" and was jailed for two years and three months.