A US-registered sex offender who sparked a massive search operation near Nelson this week says he was upfront about his chequered past when he sought New Zealand residency.
Guy Verschuur, 51, now of Golden Bay also says there was "fabrication" about his intentions during an incident which saw him convicted of first degree false imprisonment of a minor in Nebraska in 1998.
Verschuur - along with Jenny Rautio, 26, from Finland, and American Kristine Mattiace, 22 - was found at the Anatoki Forks Hut in Kahurangi National Park about 5pm on Monday, after police expressed "grave fears" for them. The trio had set out on a three-day tramp on April 12, aware of forecasted bad weather and unequipped to handle it. Police weren't alerted until they were seven days overdue.
By the time Vershuur emerged from the bush, Immigration New Zealand had confirmed it was actively reviewing his file.
"INZ takes the allegations about Mr Verschuur extremely seriously," acting general manager Marie Sullivan said.
"People are required to declare whether or not they are under investigation by a law enforcement agency in any country, or have a criminal record."
Verschuur arrived in New Zealand on a visitor visa in December 2002, and had become a resident, she said.
In an interview about their tramping ordeal this morning, Verschuur acknowledged his conviction.
"I had a major hypoglycemic attack and reached out to someone during the attack. There was fabrication on the other side of what my intention was," he said.
"The person was scared. It's understandable the person was scared. I wanted to go and apologise and explain but the lawyer told me not to.
"I have over 30 letters of support from long-time friends and a couple of past long-term relationships saying that I would never hurt another human being," he said.
"And I would write one more," tramping companion Rautio said. The 26-year-old Finnish woman said she knew about Verschuur's past before the tramp, trusted him completely and felt very safe with him.
"I want to support him because he is an amazing person and is very loving and supportive to me. He's the best friend I've ever had," she said.
Verschuur said he was honest about his past with New Zealand immigration when he applied for residency and had it accepted.
The Nebraska State Government's sex offender's register suggested Verschuur had absconded. However, Verschuur said today that he'd sought legal advice from a lawyer when he was thinking of leaving the States, due to his record, and "acted on what he was instructed to do". Although he said he later discovered the legal advice was incorrect.
"I'm just getting on with my life and have been for many years," he said.
SEARCH AND RESCUE
The trampers ate worms and used makeshift fishing poles as their food ran low during their time stranded in the national park.
Plans began to turn sour for the trio just two days into their ordeal, when Verschuur experienced abdominal pain.
"I started feeling abdominal cramps, I felt sick and nauseous," he said from a friend's property near Takaka.
"I had said we had the water purifier and we needed to boil the water to kill any parasites and bacteria. At one point I lay down feeling really dizzy. They put sleeping bags over me."
The three discussed whether to continue on or turn around and go home. They decided it was wiser to head to the Anatoki Forks Hut because the map indicated it was closer. They later realised the map they were referring to was misleading.
"We knew we had extra food, and two of us knew about wild edibles," said Verschuur.
Heavy rain meant the three were forced to sleep in Anatoki Forks Hut for seven nights. Verschuur said food was carefully rationed.
"Well let's say we got creative. I always have three extra days of food with me, if not more ... there were some emergency supplies there of food. We got down to where we weren't eating much. We were eating wild foods.
"I made fishing poles and hooks out of nails. I've taught bush craft in Canada and the States," he said.
Verschuur's fishing attempts at a nearby lake were unsuccessful.
"I didn't eat worms ... but I saw that they felt they wanted to do it and I respected that. I have hypo-hypoglycemia, so I watch that. I have something that helps me with that," he said.
He said they were "all joyous" when the rescue helicopter arrived.
"We had set up an SOS together. We did an interesting artistic job of that," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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