t might have seemed like an innocent prank at first, but it ended in the court as an injury by an unlawful act, with dire consequences for the victim, who barely escaped a tragic end.

Otago Daily Times describes the incident that happened in a Dunedin store in July of last year. A salesman popped in for one of his regular visits and thought it would be funny to put two squirts of sanitiser into one of his colleague’s drink bottle.

"When I put the hand sanitiser in his bottle, I had thought he would take a sip, it would taste bad and he would spit it out,'' he told the Otago Daily Times in a statement through his lawyer.

The victim, the manager of a local retail outlet, who had returned to his office a couple of hours later, took a sip of the water and immediately experienced a burning sensation in his throat. He started to vomit and struggled to breathe. Due to oxygen deficiency paramedics thought they would have to perform a tracheotomy - a procedure in which an opening is made in a patient's neck and a tube inserted, and his partner was told he might not make it.

Fortunately, the man pulled through but had to spent six long months eating nothing but liquids, underwent two painful "throat scrapings'' and repeatedly woke in the night choking on his own saliva.

The Dunedin District Court judge ordered the defendant to pay $10,052 to cover the victim's costs and emotional harm while acknowledging that would go nowhere near redressing the balance.