Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Up next
Listen live on

Bus driver stabbed ‘below his heart’ with hunting knife after Hop card malfunction

Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Fri, 1 Mar 2024, 4:07PM
RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly
RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Bus driver stabbed ‘below his heart’ with hunting knife after Hop card malfunction

Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Fri, 1 Mar 2024, 4:07PM

A man who stabbed an Auckland bus driver with a hunting-style buck knife just below his heart has pleaded guilty to the vicious attack on the same day his jury trial was set to begin.

The 63-year-old New Lynn resident, who for legal reasons cannot yet be identified, appeared to have been furious over his bus pass not working just before lunging at the driver last March, according to court documents released to the Herald this week.

“The Hop card either declined or did not work and after multiple attempts to tag on, [the driver] told [the defendant] that it was all right and that he can just sit down,” the agreed summary of facts for the case states.

The defendant, described as intoxicated when he got on the bus in Mt Eden, tried to get off a few minutes later in nearby Mt Roskill and was told by the driver not to bother when he again had trouble tagging off.

“Do you want a bash?” he responded to the driver in what was described in court documents as an aggressive and seemingly unprovoked challenge to fight. “Do you want to go?”

Both men stepped off the bus, with the defendant grabbing the knife from a sheath as he walked out the back door.

“The two men came face-to-face on the sidewalk and [the defendant] lunged at [the driver] with his knife and a scuffle ensued between them,” court documents state. “During the scuffle, [the defendant] suddenly stabbed [the driver] in the left side of his torso below his heart.”

The driver then grabbed a piece of wood from a fence and followed the passenger down the road trying to disarm him. The defendant again tried to stab the driver but the victim was able to dodge the blow. Eventually, authorities said, the defendant “surrendered by tossing his knife to the roadside” and was arrested a short time later.

The defendant, who has been in custody for nearly a year while awaiting trial, stood before Judge June Jelas in the Auckland District Court on Monday as he admitted to wounding with intent to injure.

He could now face up to seven years’ imprisonment when sentenced in June.

He had initially been charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.

Defence lawyer Shane Kilian said during the hearing that a “quite significant amount of alcohol” had contributed to his client’s poor decisions that day.

After the attack, the driver was taken to hospital in a serious but stable condition.

Auckland Tramways Union president Gary Froggatt told the Herald soon after the incident occurred that the knife had scraped the lungs of the driver, who is aged between 40 and 50.

“It wasn’t as serious as we originally thought, however he was kept in hospital overnight,” Froggatt said at the time.

First Union organiser Hayley Courtney told RNZ days after the stabbing that Auckland bus drivers were considering industrial action out of fear for their safety.

“Every day they go to work they are fearing they might not come home to their families. They’re feeling extremely vulnerable every day,” she said. “Something has got to happen before someone dies.”

Craig Kapitan is an Auckland-based journalist covering courts and justice. He joined the Herald in 2021 and has reported on courts since 2002 in three newsrooms in the US and New Zealand.

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you