'Screwdriver gang' member on the run

ROB KIDD
Last updated 11:32 22/02/2013
John Koteka, Alex Tereora
NZ Police

WANTED BY POLICE: John Koteka, left, who may by in the company of Alex Tereora.

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A former member of the infamous "screwdriver gang" is being hunted by police, who believe he was involved in three armed robberies at tourist hot spots in Auckland last Sunday.

Police have a warrant for the arrest of John Koteka, 34, (who recently used the name Paul Wilson) in relation to the second of the three offences, which occurred at the base of Mt Eden.

It is alleged he pulled a pistol on a number of people: two he allegedly robbed at the Auckland Domain Winter Gardens, one at the base of Mt Eden and a group of tourists at the summit of the volcanic cone.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard said the offender had driven up to the summit and turned into the car park before pulling over on the side of the road and approaching the tourist group. The tour operator's bag was subsequently stolen.

Two people tried to wrestle the bag from the offender and chased him to his car before five shots were fired at the ground. One person tried unsuccessfully to get into the stolen royal blue 2012 Holden Commodore that the offender was driving. No one was injured.

In 2001, Koteka was convicted of a string of bank robberies with a group who became known as the "screwdriver gang" because of their choice of weapon.

The police investigation was dubbed Operation Point Break because, like the movie, the gang robbed banks, lived lavish lifestyles and spent a lot of time at the beach during their month-long crime spree.

A Parole Board hearing in 2007 indicated Koteka's risk of serious violent offending was "significantly greater than the risk accepted to exist in the average case".

He committed numerous offences while incarcerated and was classified as so dangerous that he was put in maximum security at Paremoremo prison.

Koteka is a Pacific Islander of solid build and, though currently transient, has Auckland connections in the city and Papatoetoe.

He may be in the company of 31 year-old Maori, Alex Tereora, for whom the High Court in Auckland issued a warrant of arrest after he failed to appear on February 18 to face several charges including the use of a firearm and assault with intent to rob.

Tereora was arrested in June after he allegedly threatened to shoot two people manning a seafood stall in Otahuhu. He left empty handed when one of the pair threatened to throw a chair at his stolen BMW.

He is also accused of pointing the gun at a woman he knew the next day and threatening to "blow her brains out".

Beard said neither man should be approached by members of the public as both were dangerous.

"It's nearly a week since the brazen and frightening offences occurred in the Domain and on Mt Eden and we're very keen to locate these men in order to prevent repeat offences."

If anyone has information about either or both these men, they can call 111 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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- Auckland Now

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