Venus and Mars
This Sunday Theatre is on TVNZ OnDemand.
When an attack on a Palmerston North fraud detective made headlines in October 1996, the New Zealand public followed the media reports with fascination. They read like a plot of a Hollywood film or detective novel. Poison pen letters, satanic worship, a police hate crime, and a mysterious and violent pyromaniac.
But little did the public know that as the truth emerged, the story was going to get far more bizarre, and the police would turn the focus of their investigation on one of their own.
When Detective Brent Garner's home was burned down and he was brutally and sadistically attacked, the Palmerston North community was terrified. Who wanted Garner dead, why, and who was next? Those were the questions Palmerston North police were asking each other. The truth was that Brent Garner decided to leave his wife and family for a secret lover, and he concocted an elaborate plan of deception that he believed would see them all financially taken care of.
He thought he was smart enough to fool those closest to him - his police colleagues - but he was wrong.
The case that sparked Operation Venus/Mars was one of the most shocking crimes in contemporary New Zealand history. It involved deception of the highest order, a man willing to sacrifice almost anything, including his career as a well-liked and well-respected fraud detective, in order to escape his marriage, all the while watching as his friends' and colleagues' families lived in fear while they investigated a fictional attacker he had created. But one detective working on instinct saw through the lies and went out on a limb, risking his own career to bring the truth to light.