Deported conman’s quiet start to new life
FAKE prince Joel Morehu-Barlow has spent his first days of freedom in hiding at the secluded hillside home of a family friend where he was spotted watering plants and eating his breakfast.
Despite his mother Andre originally saying that he would be living with her in their New Zealand hometown of Thames, The Courier-Mail tracked Barlow to another house, hidden on a hillside on a battle-axe block overlooking the bay.
Far from the Louis Vuitton outfits he once wore, the 44-year-old fraudster was seen watering pot plants in bare feet, baggy grey track pants and a grey T-shirt.
The money was supposed to be used for public grants and charities, but instead, Barlow used it to buy a $6 million luxury New Farm apartment, designer clothing and handbags and throw lavish parties for friends.
He was a VIP customer at Louis Vuitton, where he spent more than $600,000 of stolen money. He dropped $44,000 at Brisbane jetskis, more than $1 million on travel and accommodation, purchased a $95,000 Bang and Olufsen television and drove around in two Mercedes Benz cars.
Barlow explained his wealth by claiming to be a Tahitian prince. He would later tell his mother in letters he had wanted to get away from a poor, dysfunctional upbringing to "become someone … at any cost".
He applied for parole three times before it was granted but he must now abide by the terms of a Returning Offenders Order, put in place by New Zealand authorities.
The Courier-Mail found Barlow at the home of Aroha Hathaway, a close family friend and NZ media identity.
Ms Hathaway has worked in television, radio and film for 28 years but now runs a Maori art gallery on the main street of Thames.
Her bio says she is contracted to current affairs programs and that she is a writer, journalist and announcer.
When approached by The Courier-Mail at her home, Ms Hathaway refused to discuss her house guest, saying "don't come back".
Barlow has not been seen in town since his release but was spotted at Ms Hathaway's home on Monday morning, watering the plants, drinking from a mug and eating his breakfast from a plastic container.
After spotting a photographer, Barlow, who was on the phone, appeared to alert his mother, who arrived moments later and began filming The Courier-Mail from her car.
Ms Hathaway's home is hidden at the back of other houses and can only be accessed via a narrow path. But the rear of the home is visible from a public road higher up the hill.
Media crews from Australia spent several days outside Andre's home, where she said via a neighbour she was not allowed to talk because of her son's "parole" conditions.
When approached directly, she said "it's private property - get off my property".
It is understood family travelled the one and a half hours from the seaside gold mining town to Auckland Airport to collect Barlow late Thursday night.
But they learned he would not be released immediately because authorities needed to put in place his Returning Offenders Order.
NZ Corrections confirmed the order had been put in place but would not release the conditions imposed on the fake prince.
He is believed to have arrived in Thames the following day.
Andre had previously said her son would return home to live with her in her modest public housing cottage she shares with her sister and young grandson.
But there had been no sign of the fake prince at the weatherboard cottage where a young boy was seen playing on a trampoline and in a blue plastic pool in the front yard.