Balaclava-clad teens spark manhunt

Three young Cromwell women sparked an hour-long police hunt across Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes districts on Tuesday after they were spotted leaving a Cromwell store wearing balaclavas.

A concerned member of the public alerted police after believing the young women, all aged 17, were males robbing the store and seven patrols cars were called in to search for the culprits.

Sergeant Keith Newell, of Queenstown, said two of the teens had walked out of the store sporting the balaclavas, while another, who was embarrassed by the pair, had put her jacket over her head.

Police from Queenstown, Wanaka, Cromwell and Alexandra were called to assist in finding the lookalike robbers and several cordons were set up across the two districts.

The vehicle they were travelling in was located on State Highway 6 near the Crown Range turnoff where police found three surprised teenagers.

Newell said there had been nothing sinister in the young women's "hijinks" behaviour.

"I don't think they thought about the consequences of what they'd done."

Despite the callout being a false alarm, it had been a good training exercise for police.

"They kept us on our toes from the best of an hour," Newell said.

Newell also praised the vigilant member of the public who notified police.

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"It was a good call. The caller did the right thing."

 - Stuff

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