Plea for help sparks police hunt

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN AND MIKE WATSON
Last updated 07:49 06/12/2012

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A Waikato family were at the centre of a massive police operation yesterday with officers searching for an alleged kidnapper with a woman and two children in his vehicle.

The hunt began in Cambridge about 2.20pm when police were alerted by a member of the public about a family seen in a distressed state. However, the family were found safe and well after being stopped by police in Napier last night.

Sergeant Craig Ellison from Napier police said the man had been taken into care by mental health providers.
It was not certain whether charges would be laid.

Eastern Waikato Area Commander, Inspector Dana McDonald, said the navy blue Toyota Surf was found just before 7pm.

"Waikato staff are currently liaising with our Eastern District colleagues but at this stage the important thing is all members of the family have been accounted for safe and well," he said.

"A considerable number of police from across the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Northern Communications Centre and now Eastern District have been involved in the search for the family and I would just like to acknowledge their efforts."

Speaking to TV3 Mr McDonald said, "In Cambridge the female member of the vehicle spoke to a member of the public just saying she was scared for her safety and to ring police."

Soon after, unconfirmed sightings of the vehicle near Waihi led police on a district-wide hunt for the vehicle.

The male driver of the Toyota vehicle had been understood to be a licensed firearms holder, adding further concern to an already tense situation. However, police confirmed last night that no firearm was found in the vehicle.

Last night one Waihi business owner, who did not give his name, said there had been many police vehicles travelling "backwards and forwards through town".

"We were just wondering what the bloody hell was going on - we haven't seen the vehicle they were looking for," the man said.

In a statement released about 8.30pm last night, Mr McDonald thanked the public for their help.

The incident was just one of many police operations in the greater Waikato region yesterday.

Police are treating the discovery of a body in the burnt wreckage of a car in a forest plantation beside State Highway 1 as an unexplained death, at least until an autopsy is completed today.

The body was discovered when Taupo firefighters attended an alert from a passing motorist of a vehicle burning off the road between Ohakuri and Maroa, 25 kilometres north of Taupo, yesterday morning.

Police and Fire Service investigation officers sifted through the burnt wreckage on the edge of a large plantation.

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The scene was hidden behind a large mound and could not be seen from the road.

Police spokeswoman Kim Perks said the death was being treated as "unexplained", rather than suspicious, at this stage.

The area was cordoned as the scene examination continued throughout the afternoon in drizzling rain.

Police were expecting to complete the examination and remove the body last night, she said.

They would be unable to provide any information until the body was identified and family notified.

"It's too early to say whether the death is suspicious, so the death is being treated as unexplained until more detail is known."

- Waikato Times

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