Hanmer kidnap victim fled as masked gunman fired
With a pistol held to his neck and blood pouring down his face, Andrew Cameron pushed open the door of the car he was driving and dived out.
He pulled himself to his feet and ran for his life. The masked man who had just ambushed Cameron and his family in their home and ordered him to drive at gunpoint gave chase, firing his pistol as he ran.
"There was no time to think about being frightened," Cameron, a prominent North Canterbury businessman, said on Thursday.
"We barricaded our house and did whatever we needed to do to survive."
It was a case of mistaken identity.
The family's ordeal started at 9.30pm on Monday, when a gate sensor at their Hanmer Springs home was activated. It was usually triggered when a customer entered Cameron's adjoining business, Amuri Jet, but it was a stormy night and sometimes the wind set it off. Cameron's brother went outside to check. The gunman burst out of the bushes and through the front door, Cameron said.
"A lot happens in three seconds."
Cameron declined to comment on what exactly happened next, but his sister-in-law was able to escape to another room where she hid under a bed and, unbeknown to the gunman, called police. Cameron, meanwhile, faced the intruder, who pistol-whipped him, leaving him with blood streaming down his face.
"I had multiple scenarios running around in my head. It got to a point where decisions had to be made and we either had to try and subdue the guy or get him out of the house, it was only those two options."
Two police officers, responding to the 111 call, arrived soon after. Thinking they were dealing with a burglary, one of them knocked on the door. Bloodied and threatened by the gunman, Cameron answered.
"That actually helped the situation," he said. "I walked out the door and said 'Oh there's nothing wrong here', but I'm holding the dog who is covered in blood and I'm covered in blood."
Cameron then whispered: "It's not OK … there's a gunman in the house". The officer retreated to his car to raise the alarm.
Before armed police could arrive from Christchurch, the gunman forced Cameron into a silver Nissan X-Trail parked at his home. He pointed the pistol at Cameron's neck and told him to drive.
Cameron had barely pulled onto Hanmer Springs Rd when he made his bid for freedom. The SUV crashed into a fence, the gunman leapt out and gave chase, firing at Cameron.
It is understood shots were also fired by someone in the house. The gunman retreated back to the X-Trail and sped off. The vehicle was found on Swanns Rd, in the Christchurch suburb of Richmond, on Wednesday afternoon. The gunman was still at large.
On Thursday, Cameron was nursing two black eyes and 28 stitches in his head and walking with a limp. He said he was "a bit sore".
"We were a typical kiwi family living in Hanmer Springs … it was totally random. You don't think you're going to walk outside your house and someone is just going to charge at you."
Canterbury rural area commander Inspector Peter Cooper said police were "absolutely certain" Cameron and his family were not the intended target of the attack.
It was unclear how the gunman got to the scene, Cooper said, and investigators were considering the possibility others were involved.
"At this stage we haven't got a solid indication of who's done it. Someone in the public knows who the offenders are and we'd love to hear from them."
The two local officers who responded to the attack, then withdrew, made the right call, he said.
"[They] have done a great job … but I think the family themselves are the brave ones here.
"It was an unbelievably dangerous scenario and he [Cameron] has been fantastic. I'm very impressed with how he behaved and managed to keep the offender calm.
"This [incident] was very out of character for a quiet little town like Hanmer. It's not a normal event."
Cooper appealed for sightings of the silver Nissan X-Trail, registration KQU365, between Hanmer Springs and Christchurch.
Investigators were forensically examining the vehicle and working their way through CCTV footage from along the route as they worked to identify the gunman.
Anyone with information should contact Christchurch police on (03) 363 7400 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 08000 555 111.