The heroes of Hospital Hill

MARTY SHARPE, CLIO FRANCIS AND RUTH HILL
Last updated 05:00 11/05/2009
LOADED: Ammunition found in Jan Moenaar's bedroom. Police are yet to recover more ammunition scattered around his house.

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MIKE KEMP
HERO: Leonard Holmwood, who was shot while wrestling with gunman Jan Molenaar, could barely walk but dragged himself to safety before being helped by armed police.

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Tales of extraordinary bravery by police and civilians are being revealed as Napier begins its recovery from a 50-hour armed siege.

Despite serious gunshot wounds, Senior Constable Grant Diver crawled to a neighbouring house to alert police that a routine search for Jan Molenaar's home at 41 Chaucer Rd last Thursday had gone horribly wrong.

Amid a hail of bullets, two passers-by risked their lives to go to Senior Constable Bruce Miller's aid. They abandoned the relative safety of their cars to help Detective Sergeant Tim Smith pull him to safety.

Neighbour Leonard (Lenny) Holmwood, 44 who knew Molenaar suffered life-threatening injuries as he attempted to wrestle a weapon away from the 51-year-old gunman.

Mike Kemp, another neighbour, said he heard rapid gunfire about 9am on Thursday and his flatmate yell out that someone had been shot.

He ran on to the road and saw a badly injured Mr Holmwood dragging himself by his elbows from the driveway across the road.

"The really scary part was seeing him [Holmwood] there, knowing I couldn't do anything.

"I saw chips of tarmac fly when the bullets hit and thought, 'There's no way I'm going up there, it's getting out of control."'

Armed police swarmed on to the street and braved gunfire to pull Mr Holmwood to a waiting ambulance. "He couldn't walk, his legs were dragging, he'd been shot in the backside," Mr Kemp said.

Other police risked their lives to retrieve the two injured officers but were forced to leave Mr Snee's body in the driveway.

Mr Kemp said police told him to go inside, but he refused. "I regret that now. They were trying to protect me 'cos I was in the line of fire. The cops did an incredible job and, in hindsight, I was a bloody idiot."

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After being shot by Molenaar then dragged away by police as more bullets flew, Mr Holmwood's first thought was for his cat.

After he was carried clear by two armed offenders squad members a friend received a text message: "Jan busted, 3 cops shot. Me leg. Can you feed Scrappy."

A friend, who did not want to be named, said it was typical of Mr Holmwood, who lived alone with Scrappy and several birds, to worry about others before himself.

Police said this morning Mr Holmwood remained in a critical condition.

Another witness, Chevelle Leese, 18, also saw armed officers brave Molenaar's fire to help a wounded comrade to safety. "They were in there pretty quick."

Darcy Quirke ran from his house across Molenaar's line of fire, clutching his tiny 10-month-old son, Lucas. The pair had been holed up in their house next door to Molenaar's until Mr Quirke heard someone breaking into his house around midday on the first day of the siege.

Mr Quirke's partner, Rachael Palmer, said his decision to run could have saved their lives.

Eastern District area commander Superintendent Sam Hoyle said police officers and members of the public had shown great courage in rescuing the wounded under fire.

"We saw some particularly heroic stuff, especially in those first few hours. I'm incredibly proud of the whole team."

Police found Molenaar's body barricaded in his bedroom just after midday on Saturday.

Mr Miller and Mr Holmwood were still in critical condition last night, while dog handler Mr Diver's status had improved from serious to stable.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said officers on the front line did not see themselves as heroes. "Most said they felt lucky to have been able to do something."

However, it was not just conspicuous acts of bravery, but also quiet heroism and compassion shown by Napier's community - cups of tea and words of comfort for the police, caring for besieged pets and looking after those barred from their homes.

SPCA inspector Natalie Morgans and manager Rob Johnson got a police escort to feed pets left behind the cordon and rescue those whose owners were "panicking about them".

"One cat had been hanging out with the police officers on the cordon like they were best friends."

Salvation Army emergency services coordinator Craig Campbell, whose team of 20 volunteers dished out 2000 meals during the siege to police, army personnel, ambulance staff and displaced householders, said he was "blown away" by support from the public and retailers. "There's almost been a patriotic feeling about it. It's great to hear recognition of the amazing job police have done."

Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott said the response from the community had been overwhelming. As well as the efforts of the Salvation Army, businesses offered free accommodation, and the Civil Defence operation was "textbook".

"Volunteers were on deck as soon as they were asked," she said. "The community has responded and I couldn't be more proud."

- with NZPA

- The Dominion Post

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