Three fables of Dunedin's forgotten flatters

Three fables of Dunedin's forgotten flatters

Over the years, Dunedin has been home to hundreds of thousands of students from across the globe. Earlier this year, a friend discovered a basement full of historic letters and books that, taken together, paint a picture of the lives of some of Dunedin’s previous inhabitants. Armed with some biographical documents, I wrote the stories of three residents’ lives, filling the knowledge gaps with rampant speculation.

Early 2000's

The Tale of the Treacherous Taylor Brothers

I was alerted to the despicable machinations and greed of the Taylor brothers by a Notice of Victim Reparation dated 26 May 2001, ordering John Adam Taylor to pay $4250.95 to the victim of one of Taylor’s nefarious schemes. The notice was accompanied by an explanatory letter from the Department for Courts, which is covered in what appears to be Chinese translations for the benefit of the unfortunate swindlee. Finally, a cheque for $60 dated 7 July 2002 suggests that the Taylor brothers were making amends for their wickedness, albeit in small instalments.

When I first saw these documents, I assumed violent crime. But a Google search for John Adam Taylor uncovered a Stuff article showing that he and his brother Andrew Adam Taylor were convicted in 2004 for running a Nigerian scam. According to the article, John had a previous conviction for using a document to defraud, which is almost certainly where the Taylor brothers’ story begins. The following recreation of the events leading to John Taylor’s 2001 conviction is based on facts from the Stuff article and my searches of the Companies Office website. Any wild speculation on my part is vaguely guided by verifiable facts.


The Taylor brothers began their lives as the brothers Mahmoud Abu Hussein. After spending their childhoods in Algeria and the UAE, the brothers and their parents, who were both teachers, moved to New Zealand in 1997, no doubt to escape the legislative gridlock of the Emirates’ federal system in favour of the sleek unicameral NZ Parliament.

When they arrived on New Zealand’s sunny shores, the brothers were 16 and 19 years old, and were known as Nazern and Ayatallah. Irritated at constantly having to spell out their names to patronising Studylink operators, they adopted the catchy pseudonyms “John” and “Andrew,” with adorable matching middle names. John moved to Otago to study, while Andrew stayed in Christchurch with his parents while he finished high school and soaked up the wonderful local culture.

At first, the brothers were happy with their new lives and new good-honest-Kiwi identities. They kept in touch via MSN Messenger. But little did young Andrew know of the haram Western influence corrupting John’s formerly righteous brain as he progressed through his tertiary studies at Otago. John’s lavish lifestyle included renting three rooms at Toroa College to avoid having to share a wall with American exchange students – thus, by sheer necessity, John had a few schemes going on the side. Living in Toroa provided him with a ready supply of naïve and vulnerable international students, who the wily John befriended and duly defrauded via various documents.

It was all going well for John when he slipped up. Drunk on his own cleverness and a single celebratory Bullseye beer, he accidentally stumbled into his left-hand room, and his maniacal laughter was overheard by a Chechnyan exchange student, who was understandably sensitive to such things and contacted an RA.

Six months later, John Taylor’s life had taken a distinct turn for the worse. Having been found guilty in the Dunedin District Court, he was forced to divert much of his Studylink money to repay the Toroarians he swindled. For two years he lived in a damp, freezing flat at the top of Baldwin Street, eating tinned halal beans and plotting his revenge on society. Finally, John could take it no more. He opened MSN Messenger and sent a winking emoticon to his brother Andrew, their secret signal to talk via a Fraud Enthusiasts chatroom where their conversation would go unremarked upon.

Andrew took some convincing. He had a good job pumping gas in Christchurch, and didn’t want to throw it all away on a scheme as ill-advised as the 1988 Black October riots in their homeland of Albania. But eventually he caved to his charismatic scarf-wearing brother, and the duo hatched a fiendish plan. John’s Nigerian friend Oba had taught him the ancient and closely-guarded secret of the 419 scam. The Taylor brothers planned to put a Kiwi spin on it.

By mid-2003, after skimming hundreds of dollars worth of fuel by siphoning it with his mouth, Andrew was able to buy two state-of-the-art disposable cellphones and 500 sheets of fancy letterhead paper, on which the brothers informed overjoyed businessmen from the UAE that they had won $2,368,000 in a sweepstake they hadn’t entered. Surprisingly, only five bored and gullible Sheiks were prepared to fork out the special cut-rate “processing fee” of $3500+, but the brothers nonetheless pocketed a handy $21,780 profit.

Unfortunately for the Taylors, John’s years at New Zealand’s top-ranked research university hadn’t given him the skills to deal with unforeseen eventualities, such as the sweepstake winners checking their bank accounts several months down the line and discovering that the $2mil had not come through. The brothers’ bank account was traced despite its legitimate-sounding name “Diamond Ltd”. They were dragged through the ignominy of a trial in which John was berated for his “appalling” YOLO attitude and his previous conviction, as well as blamed for leading his brother astray.

After being sentenced to a stretch in the Milton Hilton (two years for John, eight months for Andrew), the Taylor brothers emerged as redeemed men. No longer would they walk the path of darkness. Since their incarceration, the brothers have set up four companies, including two TYRES 2 GO shops in Christchurch. They live together, work together, and together they solemnly shake their heads from side to side whenever they think about the dreadful things they did.

Never again will the Taylor brothers be parted. John is the front two tyres, steering the automobile of their shared destiny, while Andrew represents the sturdy rear tyres, providing much-needed stability and support to his brother. Apart, they are dangerous dicycles, which, as Wikipedia states, “suffer from two common issues affecting driver comfort; slosh and tumbling (also known as gerbilling).” Together in Christchurch, the Taylor brothers’ only victims are their competitors who can’t keep up with the brothers’ prices, service, and reliability. As their Trademe listing states, “At TYRES 2 GO, you’ll find helpful staff offering honest, expert advice 7 days a week.” If John Adam Taylor tells you your tyres are bald and need replacing, you’d be a fool to doubt him.

To conclude this tale, the Crown Prosecutor in the Taylors’ trial, who slammed John Taylor as “amoral”, was last seen in 2011 defending a man who pleaded guilty to buying and managing four rental properties while claiming the DPB.


The Sad Story of Julian Stoner

The only evidence that Julian* Stoner ever existed is three red 1B5 Impact® exercise books. On the cover of each of the three books, Julian has neatly written his name and the code of the paper he was intending to study in the first semester of 2012. Each of the books is completely blank.

Julian Stoner

Although Julian’s life has the least documentation of any of the three residents featured in this article, the blank exercise books sum up his life so beautifully and succinctly that any further information would be redundant.

Julian had so much potential. At high school, his teachers noted his high intelligence, but bemoaned his low work ethic and preference for skipping class to go to the mall with his friends. After finishing high school with middling NCEA Level 3 results, he enrolled at Otago because he wasn’t really sure what to do with his life – plus a few of his good friends from school were going.

When he arrived in Dunedin in 2009 to start his eclectic mixture of Arts papers (which his career counsellor had told him “covered all the bases” and would be “a good mix to build a platform for a successful career”), Julian fully embraced the spirit of life at his student hall. He had a great night at the Toga Party, or at least he was pretty sure he did – he didn’t remember the last few hours!

But as the year wore on, Julian’s new friend group knew when to knuckle down and cram for exams. Julian did not. He tried to organise some Wednesday night drinking sessions “with the whole gang,” but his friends politely told him that they were studying and “you should too.” He resolved to start studying for GERM131 “after just one more episode of Dexter.” But one episode turned into a whole season, which turned into four. Julian failed his exams, and made excuses about PIMS screwing up when his friends asked him how he fared.

For the unfortunate Julian, this pattern repeated itself year after year. Everyone agreed he was a perfectly smart guy who could easily pass if he just put in the effort, but he never did. He remained as popular as ever, but after three years of failing two-thirds of his papers, he picked up the tag of “slacker” in his group.

In 2012, the University put its foot down – Julian was placed on conditional enrolment. If he didn’t pass his papers this year, he would be kicked out once and for all. This was just the wakeup call Julian needed. He arrived on the Friday before O’Week, and was the first student in the line for course approval at 9am – he even had time to grab a takeaway flat white before the doors to Castle One opened, and as he sipped the hot milky beverage Julian swelled with confidence and a newfound sense of self-worth – 2012 was going to be his year.

The lecturers gave Julian reproachful looks as they signed the fourth-year student up to yet another courseload of 100- and 200-level papers, but nothing was going to dampen Julian’s mood. Off he trotted to the Archway shop to buy stationery for the year ahead. He spared no expense, buying ringbinders, exercise books and a veritable plethora of pens – what price, after all, can one put on one’s educational success?

When he got back to his George Street flat, Julian Stoner’s flatmates were impressed. Dare they believe that their perpetually failing friend, who had until now been content to embrace nominative determinism and drift through life in a green smoky haze, was turning over a new leaf? After carefully filling in the “Name” and “Subject” lines on the covers of his exercise books, Julian dropped them in a pile on the living room table with a crisp and satisfying “thunk” sound. He had earned a beer.

Julian had many beers in O’Week 2012. He was on top of the world, filled with a renewed love for Dunedin after years of stagnation and latent self-loathing. He partied hard every night, and even hooked up with a fresher in the Break before losing her in the crowd. When his hangovers became increasingly more severe, Julian plowed through it with a couple of morning vodka shots, determined to complete an epic seven-day bender for the first O’Week of the rest of his life. He triumphantly forced down a dozen beers on Sunday night, and collapsed into bed at 2am with his alarm set for his 9am class and his dreams full of hope and promise.

Sadly, the fates would not be kind to Julian Stoner. He hit the snooze button while still barely conscious, and did not wake up until midday, discovering to his dismay that he had missed his two classes for the day. I wish I could tell you Julian Stoner shook off this setback and resolved to attend the rest of the week’s lectures and get notes off a classmate from Monday. But that is not how the tragic tale of Julian Stoner ends. His flatmates’ mocking laughter as he emerged bleary-eyed and dry-throated from his room at noon broke what little spirit Julian had painstakingly built up from his new year’s resolutions. He did not attend a class that week, nor the next, immediately spiralling back into bad habits conditioned over many years to the point of muscle memory. He lay in bed with the curtains drawn watching Pokémon reruns and eating Wattie’s Big Eats cold out of the can, using the tear-off lid as a spoon. He did not quite sink so low as to urinate in bottles, but the damage was done. Julian Stoner was a defeated man.

Having since talked to Julian’s former flatmates, I can confirm that the above is a depressingly accurate portrayal of his actual life. Four weeks after the start of 2012, Julian disappeared without so much as a note of goodbye. He left behind three exercise books, which, like Julian, were to forever remain tragically unfulfilled. When they last heard from him, he was unemployed somewhere in Europe.

Late 1990s

Alice's 1999 Presidential Campaign

Alice* left behind a journal filled with magnolia leaves, a 1999 yearbook, a letter of recommendation from her school in Malaysia, and several books. From these, it was easy to piece together exactly how her life went down during her time in Dunedin.
Growing up, Alice was every parent’s dream. Top of the class at her high-achieving Christian Convent in Southern Malaysia, she was made a Head Prefect in her final year, and left with a glowing letter of recommendation from her Prefect Mistress, describing her as “an asset to any institution.”


When she moved to Otago in 1998, Alice quickly became the Queen Bee of the Otago Malaysian Student’s Association, organising a series of highly successful movie nights, fundraisers, and study groups. Sharp-tongued and crisply dressed, Alice was a formidable figure, and anyone who got on her bad side was swiftly and unfussily ostracised.

The annual OMSA elections rolled around, and Alice had announced her Presidential bid months in advance. As with SOULS, OMSA prides itself on consensus decision-making, and strong convention dictated that only one person would run for each position – naturally, Alice was the anointed winner for 1999, and had already prepared her acceptance speech. In the weeks leading up to the elections, she handed out pictures of her beaming visage along with policy promises such as “More Movie Nights” and the slogan “Alice for Pres: It’s the Right Choice.”

On the day before the election, Alice passed around hand-made cards telling people to “Remember to vote!”, But when she looked at her voting paper, she saw the name “Victor Tengku” next to hers where there should have been nothing but white space. Alice was shocked. Such disloyalty. Her shock turned into rage when Victor won the election. When she asked her fellow OMSA members who they voted for, they avoided her eyes. She had been humiliated. As she wrote in her journal, “some things should NEVER be FORGOTTEN, lest WE let them HAPPEN AGAIN!!” Victor had to pay.

Alice bought “The Real Rules – How to Find the Right Man for the Real You”, and camouflaged it in a white paper sleeve lest her plan be uncovered. She absorbed the sage teachings of Barbara de Angelis, who made it clear in the introduction that her Ph.D. from the discredited and forcibly-shut-down Columbia Pacific University was very much valid. And indeed, Alice could not quibble with Rule #18, which said “What’s the big accomplishment if you get a man interested in you by waving your boobs in his face? Wake up, honey – it’s not you he cares about, it’s your meat!”

Using the tricks of Dr. de Angelis (Ph.D.), Alice quickly locked Victor down into Commitment Level #4, the highest possible level of commitment. With her newfound mastery of male psychology, she insidiously undermined him at every turn, and gradually broke his spirit. Having given up on this life, Victor began spending his days reading books about reincarnation, hoping to come back as a single-celled amoeba incapable of feeling emotional pain.

Alice and Victor still live together in poisonous matrimony. Every time he breaks down in tears at one of her snide remarks, Alice glues a magnolia leaf in her journal.
This article first appeared in Issue 7, 2013.
Posted 5:49pm Sunday 14th April 2013 by Callum Fredric.