P lab suspects appear in court
PAUL EASTON, TALIA SHADWELL, BEN HEATHER AND TOM HUNT
SEAN WILLIS/Fairfax NZ
Wellington Police executed a search warrant and uncovered a suspected P lab in an apartment building.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ
Police staff at the apartment where a suspected P lab was found.
View Chews Lane P Lab in a larger map
Four people have appeared in court after a drug raid in central Wellington this morning.
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Brothers Kevin Kakada Chea, 23, and Puthy Thomas Chea, 29, are charged along with Kien Trung Dao, 22, and Abby Rae Cummins, 19, with possessing methamphetamine for the purposes of supply.
Kevin Chea, Dao and Cummins were living at the Chews Lane Apartments, according to court documents.
Puthy Chea was living at Maoribank, Upper Hutt.
Kevin Chea was remanded in custody with a part-heard bail application set to resume on March 19.
Puthy Chea was remanded in custody to Monday for a bail application.
Cummins and Dao were remanded on bail to reappear in court on March 28. Bail conditions include not having non-prescription drugs, surrendering their passports or not applying for travel documents.
Police and the Fire Service arrived at the Chews Lane Apartments, between Willis and Victoria streets in the CBD, about 5am.
The area was cordoned off and residents evacuated for about two hours.
Police said one of the apartments was searched shortly afterwards and a clandestine lab was found.
The occupants were secured inside the apartment.
Detective Sergeant Tim Leitch said police had a warrant to search the apartment for drugs, but until the raid, were unaware there was a suspected meth lab inside.
Two men and a woman who were at the apartment when police raided had been arrested and a fourth person who arrived at the apartment, and was caught after a "short foot chase", had been arrested, he said.
An Environmental Science and Research team and clan lab staff were travelling from Auckland "so we can establish what has happened", Leitch said.
Police had not been able to examine the apartment because of the risk of fire or explosions.
Clan labs tended to be "very mobile" and he acknowledged that finding the lab opposite the city police station "just goes to show they can be anywhere".
Wellington fire senior station officer Andrew Walker said about three-quarters of the city fire service were involved.
He had never been called to a suspected clandestine lab scene in such a central place before.
Operating one in a confined space, such as an apartment, would put everyone else inside at serious risk, he said.
"If there was an explosion it has the potential to be quite bad. It is very dangerous," Walker said.
It was unlikely neighbours would notice any unusual smells.
"I wouldn't think most people would have the experience of knowing what they are looking for."
The Fire Service put 12 people who entered the apartment through high-pressure decontamination showers set up in a tent by Wellington City Library.
The 12 included emergency services and apartment occupants.
By 9am a biological waste truck had arrived and removed the contaminated water from the tent, Walker said.
Resident Susan Hornsby-Geluk said she was at the gym and returned to find the apartment cordoned off.
It was bizarre to think a meth lab was set up in a building so close to Wellington central police station, the prominent lawyer said.
"It's a really nice apartment block, there are a lot of elderly and retired people here," she said.
Veteran broadcaster Keith Quinn was among the apartment residents evacuated.
He said police knocked on doors from about 6.30am asking them to leave and they quickly found themselves on the other side of a cordon.
There were about 30 police officers at the scene, opposite the Wellington Central Police Station. Eight fire engines were called in. People donned orange hazard suits and entered the apartments.
The occupants of the apartment and several police will undergo decontamination by the Fire Service.
To do this, Harris St was closed to all traffic. One lane was also closed on Victoria St between Willeston and Mercer streets.
Residents were allowed back in to their apartments about 8.30am.
The award-winning 95-apartment Chews Lane Apartments block - which includes six penthouses - opened in July 2009.
In 2010, the apartment development was awarded excellence in the natural habitats landscapes urban land developments category of the Property Council Rider Levett Bucknall property industry awards.
Judges said the apartments set a new benchmark for inner-city living. The layout was maximised to allow views over the city and the harbour.
- The Dominion Post