Father accused of killing son in crash strips naked in police station, asks to be jailed

Author
Kurt Bayer, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 23 Sep 2020, 5:54PM
Lachlan Gebhardt, 6, died after a car failed to take the bend at Lehmans Rd and River Rd near Rangiora last November and launched over a river stopbank. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Lachlan Gebhardt, 6, died after a car failed to take the bend at Lehmans Rd and River Rd near Rangiora last November and launched over a river stopbank. Photo / Kurt Bayer

Father accused of killing son in crash strips naked in police station, asks to be jailed

Author
Kurt Bayer, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 23 Sep 2020, 5:54PM

A father accused of killing his young son in a fiery car crash walked into a Christchurch police station, took his clothes off, and pleaded to be jailed.

Niklas Gebhardt, 30, was charged with manslaughter after his 6-year-old son Lachlan Gebhardt died in a crash at the bend of Lehmans Rd and River Rd near Rangiora Racecourse on November 5 last year.

He has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge.

A two-week trial is scheduled to begin at the High Court in Christchurch on July 26 next year.

On Monday, Gebhardt walked into Christchurch Central Police Station and removed his clothes, refusing to put them back on.

He was arrested and charged with obscene exposure in public.

Yesterday, Gebhardt appeared via audio visual link (AVL) from custody before Community Magistrate Sally O'Brien at Christchurch District Court.

Defence counsel Andrew McCormick, who is also representing him on the manslaughter charge, explained the background to his client's case. He stressed that Gebhardt was clearly "having some difficulty … in a trauma sense".

The Community Magistrate told Gebhardt that he did not have to enter a plea to the exposure charge right away – a charge that carries a maximum penalty of three months' imprisonment – and that police were happy for him to be immediately released on bail.

However, Gebhardt – whose parents were sat in the court's public gallery to support him - asked to address the court directly.

He said he'd seen a therapist on Monday morning and told her "the best thing would be for me to go to prison".

"I'd like to go to prison," Gebhardt told the court.

"I'm facing a manslaughter charge for my son's death. I was driving the car, I'd like to take responsibility for that."

He also admitted taking his clothes off at the Christchurch police station.

The Community Magistrate transferred the case for a District Court judge to handle on Tuesday afternoon.

McCormick again explained the situation to Judge Quentin Hix who asked if there were any underlying mental health issues.

The lawyer said there were "clearly some psychological issues" which have arisen out of the manslaughter case, but otherwise there was no need to call for Section 38 mental health reports.

"He's just struggling, the reality is," McCormick said.

Gebhardt told the judge he wanted to plead guilty – and when the exposure charge was put to him, he did so.

Judge Hix jailed him for one month and urged him to speak to his lawyer.

McCormick asked for a suppression order to prevent reporting of the case, but Judge Hix said he could see no grounds for final suppression orders to be made.

Gebhardt, a talented football player who represented Canterbury United, was rushed to hospital in a critical condition after the single-vehicle crash last year. He was later transferred to the burns unit at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital.

Lachlan Gebhardt died at the scene.