Ethan Simon pleads guilty to stabbing two young Burger King employees, aged 16 and 17, in Takanini, Auckland

Ethan Simon's bloody stabbing at a South Auckland Burger King initially seemed random, if not completely unhinged.

His first victim – a 16-year-old employee who had the misfortune of working in the public area of ​​the Takanini restaurant that Sunday afternoon – received no warning that anything was wrong when Simon entered the restaurant. No words were exchanged.

Simon, 27, simply approached the youth and began stabbing him, pushing him backwards then continuing to stab him after he fell to the ground.

But moments later, as he turned to other employees, a possible motive revealed itself.

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“Open the crate!” He shouted. “Give me the money.”

Details of the April 2023 attack – which left two employees hospitalized – first emerged in court documents provided to the court. Herald ahead of Simon's sentencing, scheduled for next month in the Manukau District Court.

But the documents don't explain why an apparent robbery attempt began without any demands — just a sudden, unprovoked and potentially deadly attack.

The issue could be shed more light at the sentencing hearing, during which pre-sentence and psychological reports can be reviewed by the judge.

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Simon was initially accused of causing grievous bodily harm to the 16-year-old and assaulting a 17-year-old employee with a knife with the intention of robbing him. Both charges carry a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

He pleaded guilty to injuring the 16-year-old, but the robbery charge involving the older teen was replaced by a guilty plea to wounding with intent to injure, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.

The agreed summary of the facts of the case indicates that Simon lived about 500 meters from the restaurant at the time.

As the 16-year-old screamed and moaned in pain, other employees who were already behind the counter and in the kitchen were alerted to the commotion. Shortly after, Simon walked away from the teen and towards the door before backtracking and deciding to jump the counter.

“Open the crate!” » he asked the 17-year-old after approaching him and several other employees, including the manager on duty.

“The accused then threw himself forward towards [the 17-year-old] and stabbed him in the chest,” court documents state. “[The teen employee] fell to the ground in pain. The other employees fled through the rear exit.

Simon then pointed the knife at the manager.

“I want money. Give me the money or I’ll stab him,” he demanded, referring to the 17-year-old who was already bleeding.

He repeated his threat, appearing “very angry and serious,” when the manager did not immediately respond.

The manager went to the register and entered the wrong codes to distract Simon as the 17-year-old fled out the back exit, authorities said.

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“If you stab me, you won’t get anything,” the manager told him.

“I know the codes and no one else knows them.”

The accused left the restaurant and went straight home after searching the drawers. He was arrested shortly after, after a passerby followed him to his home and called the police.

The 16-year-old who was attacked initially suffered severe blood loss and required emergency surgery. Surgeons had to remove his spleen, drain blood from a collapsed lung and repair his severed diaphragm.

After fleeing through the back of the restaurant, the 17-year-old was rushed to Clendon Medical Center by two passers-by whose Mazda hatchback was in the parking lot. From there he was transported to Middlemore Hospital by ambulance and treated for a single stab wound to the abdomen.

The restaurant, which was damaged by a major fire just three months after the stabbing attacks, is now permanently closed.

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A Burger King NZ spokesperson said immediately after the incident the company was shocked and horrified and security had been increased.

“We are working to support them and their families through this truly horrific incident,” the spokesperson said.

Manurewa-Papakura ward councilor Daniel Newman described the incident in an interview with Newstalk ZB as a “fucking shame” and “a new low”.

“It’s just incomprehensible that something like this could happen,” he said.

“Traders don’t go to work and then get stabbed by customers. »

Detective Inspector Tofilau Fa'amanuia Va'aelua, from County Manukau CIB, expressed similar sentiments at the time. He acknowledged how alarming and concerning this would be to the public.

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“These two people were simply doing their jobs and could not have imagined coming to work today and becoming victims of an incident like this,” he said.

“We hope it is reassuring that we have made a swift arrest and that we can bring this person before the courts to account.” »

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

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