Arrest after hitchhikers left stabbed, with broken bones
A man arrested after allegedly attacking two hitchhikers on the West Coast could be linked to a murder investigation in Christchurch.
The 38-year-old man was arrested about 3am today and was currently speaking to police in Greymouth after a police chase and a five-hour stand-off.
No charges had been laid yet, but Tasman District Commander Superintendent Richard Chambers said he expected the man - who was from the lower North Island - would appear in court later today.
"We've got a lot to talk to him about.
"We're working closely with staff in Christchurch to establish whether or not there is a link [to the discovery of a body in a car in in Woolston]."
Police are expected to release more details about the homicide investigation in Christchurch, shortly.
The man was arrested after two hitchhikers were found stabbed and with broken bones near Franz Josef, in South Westland, yesterday afternoon.
A 28-year-old German woman and a 27-year-old woman of Japanese and Dutch origin had been picked up while hitchhiking at Whataroa earlier in the afternoon.
Chambers said the tourists were found near Franz Josef by members of the public, including a nurse, about 4pm.
One woman had life-threatening three stab wounds to her neck and the other had suffered pelvic injuries which were believed to have happened as she escaped the vehicle.
"It was close, any injury to the neck is one that can be touch and go," said Chambers.
Police immediately started a search for the blue Nissan Terrano the women had been picked up in, using all available staff and setting up roadblocks on State Highway 6.
A helicopter and plane were also used in the search.
The vehicle was eventually spotted at 8.30pm by police south of Fox Glacier but took off, with police pursuing.
The driver came across a road block at Paringa and turned and headed north again.
Another road block was set up at Karangarua River, 25km south of Fox Glacier, to prevent the driver entering the town. The driver stopped - 90 minutes after the chase started.
Armed police surrounded the vehicle and began negotiating with the man, while Armed Offenders Squad members were being flown from Tasman, Dunedin and Christchurch to help.
"He was throwing things out the window that he had set alight," Chambers said.
The man had also doused himself in petrol, as well as his vehicle and the road around him, and was carrying a lighter.
The standoff lasted more than five hours before police used 'sponge rounds', similar to rubber bullets, and deployed a police dog to overpower the man.
He was finally arrested about 3am.
"This was one of those touch and go situations.
"My staff here done a fantastic job. It was dangerous, it was tense," Chambers said.
The arrested man was not believed to have any connections to the West Coast.
The two victims were this morning in Grey Base Hospital in stable conditions. Police said they were recovering well and were being interviewed today.
"The two ladies showed a huge amount of bravery. They're lucky women. This kind of thing shouldn't happen in our country."
Police have seized the vehicle and are working to establish what weapons the man had.
Chambers confirmed he had petrol and a knife.