Man sets himself on fire outside Parliament in Wellington
A man is in a critical condition after setting himself on fire outside Parliament in Wellington.
The incident happened just before 4pm on Thursday. A Wellington Free Ambulance spokesman said the man was taken to Wellington Hospital's emergency department in a "status one" condition.
The hospital confirmed on Thursday night the man was being treated and remained in critical condition.
A placard could be seen on the steps leading up to Parliament House afterwards, suggesting the man was protesting. But police could not confirm this.
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The sign appeared to read: "Issue is not to take children's mother away. Enough murdering father by ..."
Police placed a cordon around a burnt patch of grass, about a metre in diameter, on the lawn outside Parliament House.
A foreign reporter, who did not want to be named, witnessed the incident and said it was unlike anything they had seen before.
"I turned around and there was a man in flames on the lawn … we didn't know it was a person to begin with," she said.
"We were yelling for help. We didn't know what the emergency number was … a man came over with his jacket and tried to beat the flame out."
Another man who witnessed the incident said other people in the area were "just standing around" at first.
"There was no reaction from people around so it took a little while to realise what was going on.
Another man, who saw the incident, said he initially thought the smoke was coming from within Parliament, before emergency services doused the flaming man in water.
Senior Sergeant Glen Turner, of Wellington Police, said they were called to a fire outside Parliament grounds about 3.50pm.
"When police got here there was a small fire, which had subsequently been put out," he said.
"We're treating the scene as a crime scene, which is procedure. There's a number of inquiries that need to be done."
It was too early to say whether the man had set himself on fire in protest, Turner said. "But that's part of our inquiry."
It was also too early to say whether any accelerant was used.
Police were yet to establish the man's identity. They were trying to piece together who he was and what his movements were before the fire, Turner said.
"Things like this are highly unusual and extremely unfortunate."
Security footage from Parliament grounds would be used in the investigation, he said.
Police were appealing for witness or anyone who helped the man to come forward.
Well-known Wellington protester Benjamin Easton said he did not know if the man who set himself on fire was protesting men's rights.
But said he had empathy for the man if he was.
On Budget Day in 2016, Kenneth William Thurston, 64, sparked a lockdown at Parliament when he set fire to his ute on the parliamentary forecourt.
Thurston, from Bunnythorpe in Manawatu, was convicted of setting fire to a vehicle with reckless disregard for the safety of others.
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