Manawatu Prison standoff ends

KATHRYN KING AND TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 08:53 14/12/2012
Linton Prison roof
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Two men on the roof of Manawatu Prison, believed to be the prisoners.
PRISONERS ON ROOF: Police are stationed outside Manawatu Prison.
Greer McDonald
PRISONERS ON ROOF: Police are stationed outside Manawatu Prison.

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An armed standoff situation at Manawatu Prison has been resolved, the two prisoners who camped on the prison's roof came down after more than 24 hours of negotiations.

The two men climbed on the exercise yard roof on Wednesday afternoon at 2pm, and one came down at voluntarily at 4pm yesterday followed by his fellow inmate at about 5.40pm, a Corrections spokeswoman confirmed.

The prisoners did not have weapons but it was still unknown why they were on the roof.

The first prisoner to disembark was assisted down by staff and taken to hospital for treatment of injuries sustained by the razor wire that surrounds the prison roof.

He had not injured himself attempting to escape, Prison Manager Peter Howe said at a press conference held at the prison earlier this evening.

Just over an hour and a half later the remaining prisoner also came down voluntarily, from the roof inside an enclosed yard in the prison overlooking the exercise yard.

A Corrections spokeswoman said the incident had been resolved successfully in a full scale operation with the support of the police, Army and Fire Service.

There had been no threat to public safety or any possibility of the pair escaping at any time during the incident, Mr Howe said.
"Ensuring the safety of both staff and prisoners is of paramount importance.''

They had stockpiled food and water, which indicated some level of planning was undertaken.

No details of the prisoner identities could be released at this stage, but a full investigation was to be launched into how and why they got onto the roof.

A prison negotiation team and two police cars were still at the cordoned-off scene earlier this evening.

Airspace restrictions were put in place over Manawatu Prison at police request.

Palmerston north senior sergeant Clifford Brown said the restriction was in place for safety and operational reasons.

"Having aircraft flying above the prison prevents us from going about our business, which is getting the guys down, without distraction."

Corrections staff had been in negotiations with the two men and police had remained in the prison overnight last night, but Mr Howe would not say if the prisoners were making demands.

They had access to food and water which they are understood to have stockpiled themselves and were apparently "in good spirits". 

Five police officers were initially positioned at the entrances to the prison, and a police liaison was inside with negotiators.

Corrections staff were also posted at the entrances with police.

Corrections had taken the lead in negotiations and police were providing assistance where they could.

The jail, in Linton, near Palmerston North, had been cordoned off. Nine police staff were initially posted at two entrances to the prison after they were contacted shortly before 5pm yesterday, but that number was reduced about 10pm last night.

Visitors to the prison were being turned away, with police telling them the area was in lockdown for an unknown amount of time.

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- Manawatu Standard

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