Occupant of Napier siege house ordered out by armed police
TOM HUNT, CRAIG HOYLE AND TOMMY LIVINGSTON
Police spent hours laying siege to an empty Napier house despite being told by its occupant the man they wanted wasn't there.
Greg Cummins said he was making dinner when armed police ordered him out of his Bristol St house.
What followed was a storm of flash grenades, tear gas and hours of fruitless hailing into an empty property as Cummins continued to insist the man police were hunting, Shawn Nicholas Harding, 40, was not inside.
Bullet holes and smashed windows were all that remained at the Bristol St house after the siege came up empty-handed at 1am on Saturday.
By 8am on Saturday, police said Harding, who they have warned is dangerous and should not be approached, had still not been found and refused to say if he had ever been in the siege house.
Cummins, who says he has known Harding since the pair were teens, said he told police he hadn't seen Harding in a fortnight and called him to tell him not to visit when police began looking for him.
But police believed they had tracked down their man.
"We came out of the house - guns in faces of course," Cummins said.
"For three hours on the side of the road I said [to detectives] there's no one else in the house."
He offered to escort police in, but was told it was against protocol.
"I kept telling them they were yelling at an empty house."
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About 8.30pm, police started throwing tear gas and what appeared to be flash grenades into the house, terrifying Cummins' dogs, which were in the backyard.
Eventually, Cummins and his partner went to his father's house, but by 11pm, with no end in sight, his partner needed her medication.
He contacted police, who told him the medication would be contaminated and it wasn't until about 1.30am on Saturday when police finally got into the empty house to retrieve the medication.
"Nobody had come out of the property because there was nobody else there," Cummins said.
He was allowed back into the house early on Saturday.
His eyes stung from the residual tear gas and virtually every window had been broken.
Tax-payers were now paying for him and his partner to stay in a hotel for three nights while the house was fixed and cleaned, he said.
Cummins admitted he had his own criminal record for "guns and drugs, etc, etc".
He said Harding had got into trouble when he was younger and had issues with methamphetamine but was now on the "straight and narrow".
A photograph issued by police - showing a menacing-looking Harding - was actually a "joke photo" taken by a prison guard while Harding was in prison, Cummins said.
Harding's daughter Larissa Salisbury said she doubted he was ever at the Napier house and believes he may in fact be in the Waikato town of Matamata.
"Last night that was nine, ten hours doing nothing," she said.
"That's the silly thing."
Salisbury acknowledged her father could be a threat to the public.
"He can be dangerous, just because of his past," she said.
Harding has a warrant for arrest on driving-related incidents and has a history of violent offending, including a road rage attack on a TV3 reporter.
In 2005 he was sentenced to seven years jail for stabbing his former partner in front of his two young children and for assault with a weapon relating to the road rage incident, in which he threatened a TV3 employee whom he chased with an axe while in a drug-induced rage.
Salisbury said she tried to call her father during the siege, but his phone was turned off.
She and her family have struggled to find out what's going on.
"They're not telling us anything, we have to find out from reporters."
It is understood Harding has been on the run from police for a week.
On Saturday morning, the siege house sat empty and police had returned to the scene to reassure residents the incident was over.
A man called in to clean the house said there were two dogs tied up at the back of the property.
Trudy Marr, who lives next door to the house, was at home when she heard something outside her kitchen window.
"It was about 5.50pm [on Friday] and I went to the window and saw the Armed Offenders Squad there," she said.
Marr peered out to see her driveway, and her neighbour's property, crawling with armed police.
"They came through the gate with their guns, it was freaky.
"The next minute one of the guys came over and said, 'you will be fine for the moment'."
Marr sat tight and watched the action unfold from her lounge. Police began to call out to the house, but there was no response from inside.
Shortly after 8pm, she and other residents on the street were told to evacuate.
"It was a weird feeling, but we knew they were doing their job. They were calling out with their loudhailer saying, 'you are under arrest'."
"I wondered what is going to happen next, is he going to come out with a gun?"
She did not know the people who lived in the house, but had seen them occasionally.
Another neighbour said he had no idea armed police were scouring the street until one knocked on his door and told him to leave.
"A large, calm, very professional [officer] said, 'would you mind sir, but we would like you to move out. We have a situation'."
Acting area commander Andy Sloan confirmed on Saturday morning that Harding had not yet been found though police were "following lines of inquiry" to find him.
Police first appealed for help finding Harding on January 20.
Anyone who saw him should call 111.
Anyone helping Harding to hide could be charged with a crime, Sloan said.