Camera bought to catch thief before bathroom device found, court told

Alfred Harold Keating, 59, is on trial in the Auckland District Court. - Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The jury in the trial of a top military attache has heard a covert camera was purchased to catch a petty cash thief in the New Zealand Embassy in Washington DC.

Alfred Harold Keating, 59, is on trial in the Auckland District Court charged with attempting to make an intimate visual recording.

He is accused of planting a motion-activated camera in a unisex bathroom in New Zealand's US embassy, discovered on July 27 after it fell out of a heater.

Today the court heard that roughly three years before this device was found, the embassy itself purchased a covert camera when petty cash went missing, similar to the one found in the bathroom three years later.

Talei Ruby, the embassy's defence force business manager, told the court she was approached by a staffer about the missing cash in 2014.

"We came up with a plan to geta hidden camera and to place it in the petty cash cupboard with the idea that we could possible catch whoever had stolen money in the act."

Ms Ruby said she tasked Mike Waller, Mr Keating's driver, with finding a camera suitable for such an operation and the former police officer settled on a Brickhouse Security camera.

The camera was placed in the petty cash drawer for several months but didn't capture anything and was soon retired to a locked drawer in Mr Waller's office, the court heard.

Ms Ruby said she immediately went to see Mr Waller when she was briefed that a covert device had been found in a bathroom.

"I said to Mike, 'hey what happened to that camera that we had?' and he produced it to me. He gave me the camera; it was still in his locked drawer."

Ms Ruby said she'd told Mr Keating, then head of defence, about the covert camera operation when he took up his post in Washington DC.

However, when she went to ask him if she should tell investigators about the petty cash camera, she said he denied knowing anything about it.

"When I went and saw him in 2017 my start of the conversation was 'Hey remember how we got that camera for the petty cash?' and he was like 'No I don't know what you're talking about'.

"I told him I thought I'd briefed him after the previous [head of defence] left and he said 'No I don't know anything about it'."

This afternoon Mr Keating's lawyer Ron Mansfield accused Mr Waller of planting the camera in the bathroom; a claim Mr Waller repeatedly and strenuously denied.

This morning the defence's first witness, a DNA expert from the UK, was interposed at the tail end of the Crown's case.

Last week the court heard DNA found on the camera's SD card was ten thousand million times more likely to be Mr Keating's than a random New Zealander.

It also heard this evidence was obtained using an ultra-sensitive test that requires miniuscule amounts of DNA, coined the low copy technique.

Lynne Hingley, a forensic scientist, told the court this test was known to pick up background DNA; going further to say it was not possible to determine how Mr Keating's DNA profile ended up on the SD card.

She disagreed with ESR's conclusion about possible means of deposit and said contamination was as equally likely as direct or indirect contact.

The trial before Justice Robert Ronayne and a jury of 10 women and two men is expected to finish this week.

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