A school caretaker on a ride-on lawnmower was just one of a large cast involved in a three-hour Northland car chase today, which could have been taken from an action-movie script.
The incident started at 8.45am when a police patrol car spotted a stolen vehicle on State Highway 11 (between Puketona and Paihia) after a tipoff by a member of the public.
A short time later another stolen car was found nearby.
A police dog handler went to the scene to try to find the driver, but while unsuccessful in finding them, they found the second car abandoned in a quarry.
The chase resumed when it became apparent a car belonging to a quarry worker had also been stolen.
Shortly afterwards a police patrol car 40 kilometres away saw the the stolen vehicle and stopped it on the side of the road.
But, rather than hand himself in, the driver rammed the police car and sped off along State Highway 1.
Despite the damage, police followed the offender 20km to Motatau and enlisted the help of members of the public along the way.
Police called for assistance from a small plane, which was in the area, to help spot the stolen vehicle.
The driver of the stolen car then abandoned the vehicle and stole another car from Motatau School.
However, he faced some unexpected resistance from the school caretaker, who tried to stop him leaving the property by using his ride-on lawnmower.
That held the offender up only briefly but he was finally halted when he crashed 2km from the school.
The driver ran off but was apprehended by a police dog handler about noon - more than three hours after being originally spotted.
A 26-year-old man has been charged with unlawful taking and will be appearing in the Whangarei District Court tomorrow.
Police said further charges were likely.
The search for another offender who abandoned one of the two original vehicles continued.
Senior Sergeant Rob Huys said it was a "very fluid situation" involving several stolen vehicles, multiple scenes and two offenders intent on evading capture.
No police staff or members of the public were injured during the incident,
Huys thanked the public for providing information on the movements of the stolen vehicles as the incident progressed.
- © Fairfax NZ News