Charges dropped against accused Jewish cemetery vandal


Police in New Zealand say charges will be dropped against one of the three men arrested in last month's attack on an historic Jewish cemetery.

Auckland police released a short statement Monday, saying the charge of willful damage against 23-year-old Nathan Symington will be withdrawn as there was “insufficient evidence to carry a robust prosecution.”

More than 20 headstones at the Jewish cemetery in Auckland were vandalized with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel graffiti, many with swastikas and some with the numbers “88” – code for “Heil Hitler.”

Symington had told the Auckland District Court he was innocent, his only connection being a photo of the vandalism sent to him by a friend and which he later posted on Facebook.

“I feel like killing myself over this,” he said at the time. “My name's been shamed.”

But police said they will continue their case against the other two defendants, whose names have been suppressed. The two men, ages 19 and 20, are expected to appear in court on Nov. 13.

Under bail conditions, they are banned from associating with each other and prohibited from visiting any cemetery, synagogue or Jewish school.

Alleged vandals charged in New Zealand Jewish cemetery attack


Three men were charged in a New Zealand court with damaging more than 20 Jewish gravestones at a historic cemetery in Auckland.

The suspects, aged 19 to 23, were charged Tuesday in Auckland District Court with willful damage of the graves, some of which date back to the 1880s. Their bail was conditioned on not associating with each other or visiting a Jewish cemetery, synagogue or school. They were ordered to reappear in court next month.

One of the suspects, Nathan Symington, accused police of a “witch hunt” and said that although he was a “small-time criminal,” he was no racist and he'd fight the charge “to the bitter end.” The names of the other two were suppressed by the court.

The vandalism last week included spray-painting swastikas and the number 88, code for “Heil Hitler,” as well as graffiti including “F*** Israel.” The charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. 

The attack drew a chorus of condemnation from Jewish officials, Israel’s ambassador, interfaith leaders and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, whose mother escaped Nazism by fleeing Austria on the eve of the Holocaust.