Prisoner on the loose

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Police are asking for public assistance to locate an offender who escaped from court after being sentenced to a short prison term.

Mana Justin Tangitutu, 27, had been sentenced to four months imprisonment at Whakatane District Court for a family violence assault on a female.

He has links to the Gisborne area, Whakatane, Tauranga and the North Shore.

After being sentenced he was placed in a court cell by police officers on court escort duty. While the officers then dealt with another prisoner, Tangitutu escaped from the cell and managed to leave the court building.

The escape was discovered a few minutes later, about 5.15pm. Cordons were put in place around Whakatane until 7pm and various area enquiries and searches were carried out.

The victim of Tangitutu's assault was also contacted immediately and arrangements made to ensure her safety.

Mana Tangitutu is described as a male Maori about 1.80 metres tall. He has gang affiliations and has a distinctive full facial tattoo with the word Mongrel above his upper lip.

Yesterday's conviction was for violence and he is known to carry weapons so he should not under any circumstances be approached.

Area Commander for Eastern Bay of Plenty Police, Inspector Sandra Venables said: "There will be a full investigation into how Mr Tangitutu was able to leave the cell and court building and a review of court escort processes, but our priority at this stage is locating him.

"I appeal to anyone who sees him or knows of his location to contact us immediately. It is of course possible that he will seek refuge with family or friends and I need to make it clear that anyone found to be assisting him in evading police could also face prosecution."

Any sightings should be reported immediately via 111. Anyone else who has knowledge of where he is should contact the police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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