Northland police shooters linked to kidnapping, car-torching in crime rampage

Two men were last night still on the run after a shocking crime spree which included shooting at a police officer at close range, a kidnapping, a car torching and possibly also a series of shop ram-raids.

The officer escaped injury but the patrol car windscreen was peppered with shot from the shotgun blast on Puketona Rd, off State Highway 10 south of Kerikeri, just after 4am yesterday.

The incidents sparked a major police operation and a search by members of the Armed Offenders Squad at a series of properties on Matauri Bay Rd connected to the abduction.

During the same night, ram-raids were carried out at a Four Square in Paihia and a dairy in Moerewa. It is not yet known if those raids were related to the other crimes.

The drama began at 4.13am when a car pulled out in front of a police vehicle and stopped in the middle of Puketona Rd, between Puketona Junction and the quarry.

Before the police officer had a chance to get out of the patrol car, two men got out of their car and aimed guns at the officer.

The officer retreated immediately but one shot was fired at the vehicle, spraying the windscreen with shotgun pellets.

The officer, who was unharmed, quickly left the scene and called for backup.

A Puketona Rd resident who lives near the scene said she was awake when she heard what sounded like a single shot sometime after 3am.

The woman, who did not want to be named, thought it could have been a rustler ”having a go” at their cattle.

She decided to wake her husband and get him to take a look if she heard a second shot.

When they got up around 6.30am they noticed the normally busy road was strangely quiet. Then their farm worker called to say she couldn’t get through, and a mate from the quarry rang to ask what was going on.

When her husband walked down to the road to check his stock he saw two police officers with rifles near the end of his drive.

”It looked like they were looking for something on the road,” he said.

They believed the offenders’ car had come out of a nearby farm access road leading to a barn. The barn, however, was untouched.

Puketona Rd, the main link between Paihia and SH10, was closed until 8am. More than 100 quarry and road workers had to wait in a motel carpark on SH10 until the road reopened.

A short time later police cars were seen travelling northwards at speed through Waipapa.

They were responding to a kidnapping which had occurred early in the morning but was not reported until 8am when the victim managed to make his way to a farmhouse on Matauri Bay Rd seeking help.

The connection between the shooting and the abduction was still not clear at edition time yesterday but the same men are thought to have been involved.

In both incidents the perpetrators were described as masked, of solid build, and driving a silver or grey sedan.

It is believed a man was kidnapped in the Waipapa area then dumped near a quarry in Matauri Bay.

Detective Inspector Dene Begbie, of Northland police, said the man was thankfully not seriously injured, and was helping police piece together the morning’s events.

Earlier, around 4.50am, police located what Begbie described as a ”vehicle of interest to the inquiry” when it was set alight on Puketotara Rd, near Ōkaihau.

The car was a grey 2010 Nissan Skyline.

Later in the morning carloads of armed police and at least two dog units assembled at the intersection of Matauri Bay Rd and Hikurua Rd.

Once members of the specialist Armed Offenders Squad arrived from Whangārei around 11.20am they headed up a series of nearby driveways and access tracks.

They did not find the men they were looking for but remained at the scene for several hours to gather evidence and search for missing property.

Begbie said police were continuing to support the officer targeted in the unprovoked shooting.

”They are understandably shaken by the incident and I commend the actions this officer took to ensure their own safety. This kind of incident is totally unacceptable and of concern to both police and our community,” he said.

”I would like to reassure the Far North community that we are taking this matter seriously and we have a determined team of investigators working to bring those involved to account.”

The officer is understood to be female though police would not confirm that officially. She has been temporarily taken off duty.

■ Anyone with information about any of the incidents, or who saw a Nissan Skyline with the registration MWD839, is urged to contact Kerikeri Police on 105. Information can also be provided anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. The men should not be approached.

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