Trampers escape from the wild

SALLY KIDSON AND NICOLE PRYOR
Last updated 05:00 23/04/2013

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Police will interview three foreign trampers this morning, after they were found sheltering in a hut more than a week after they were expected back from the Kahurangi National Park.

One of the three, a woman, needed medical attention, but the three were believed to be OK after being found shortly after 5pm yesterday, police said last night.

They were taken by helicopter to the Takaka police station, but media were denied the chance to speak to them. Search and rescue officials refused to give details.

Police had held grave fears for the trio, who set out on the three-day tramp on Friday, April 12, after texting their plans to a Golden Bay man.

They were aware of the forecast bad weather, and they did not have a lot of equipment to handle difficult situations.

Inspector Steve Greally of Nelson said police were not notified until the trio were seven days overdue.

A friend had tried to be a "hero", Greally said, and searched for them first before alerting police. He contacted police two days after finishing his search.

One of the trampers was Guy Verschuur, 51, a United States national who has been in and out of the Nelson region for the past 10 years. A man whose photograph and age matched Verschuur is on the Nebraska Sex Offender register, an official website of the state government.

It listed Verschuur as having "absconded". He was convicted of first degree false imprisonment of a minor in January 1998. Nelson police would not confirm it was the same man, but said they had no criminal interest in him.

The other trampers were Jenny Rautio, 26, a Finnish woman who had been in New Zealand since 2011 and was due to leave soon, and Kristine Mattiace, 22, who is on a working holiday visa from the US.

Once notified, police sent two search teams in; one went from Anatoki towards Forks Hut, the group's initial destination, and the other headed towards Waingaro via the Killdevil track.

Greally said the area police had to search was "absolutely massive", but noted the track was in good condition, though was not for amateurs. It included a lot of steep gullies and rugged peaks.

The weather had fluctuated in the time they were missing, but the torrential rain on Monday had been of great concern.

When asked about Verschuur's record before the trio were found, Greally said they were focusing on a search-and-rescue operation and it was not a criminal investigation.

"We need to concentrate our efforts and not get distracted by anything. We are hoping to get these people out."

Immigration New Zealand could not respond to immediate questions about Verschuur.

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Rautio, who was based in Auckland, had been travelling around the country running workshops for a practice known as Nia, which taught people "how to get in their body".

Wellington Nia teacher Amanda Hanna-Doull said Rautio had been in New Zealand for more than a year.

Rautio had intended to leave shortly to do more Nia training in the US.

In preparation for that she had been intending to sell her car, which was painted in orange and white stripes like the clownfish in the animated movie Finding Nemo.

Nia was a practice involving dance, martial arts and healing arts.

"It's very joyous, and she's [Rautio] very joyous," Hanna-Doull said.

In her "Nia Story" on the Nia website, Rautio said: "It was year 2007 and my favorite festival in Finland where I first tried and got hooked with it.

"I remember clearly the light, spacious and electric sensation I got dancing barefoot and moving in my body's way into soul stirring music." 

- Nelson

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