Police have praised the courage of two teenage girls who thwarted an attempted carjacking in Papamoa on New Year's Day.
The pair, who were holidaying in Tauranga, stepped in when they saw a blood-splattered woman punching the driver of a car stopped at a the intersection of The Gardens Drive and Domain Rd.
Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner of Tauranga Police said the girls, aged 18 or 19, tried to pull the attacker away from the driver after witnessing her being punched. He commended their "very courageous actions", saying they potentially stopped a much more serious event from happening.
"Any attempt to hijack a car is very concerning."
Their intervention saw the woman break off the attack, which allegedly included grabbing the ignition key and threatening the driver in a bid to get her to move across to the passenger seat so she could drive away.
Police were seeking witnesses to the incident which happened at 2.45pm last Friday. Anyone with information should ring Tauranga Police on 577 4300. No arrests had been made in relation to the incident, yesterday.
The victim of the attempted carjacking, Harpreet Kaul, told the Bay of Plenty Times the woman was standing in the middle of the road when she drove up to the intersection. "I was looking at her trying to decide what she was doing."
Mrs Kaul said the woman then threw herself against the car bonnet, came around and opened the driver's door and grabbed the keys from the ignition. Mrs Kaul said she was then told that if she wanted her keys back she would have to move across to the front passenger's seat.
"I said no and she punched me in the stomach."
At that stage the woman closed her hand into a fist revealing a ring with a sharp point where stones usually sat. Mrs Kaul said the women threatened to prick her in the neck if she did not move across to the other side of the car.
Mrs Kaul said she responded by pushing her leg out the car door and the woman pushed the door hard against her leg, telling her to get across. At that point the woman grabbed some cash from Mrs Kaul's pocket and repeated her request.
"I cried for help and tried to push the car horn. She twisted my arm and pushed it back."
The two girls who had just rounded the corner on a scooter saw what they first thought was the woman giving Mrs Kaul a cuddle, but Mr Turner said they quickly worked out that the driver was being assaulted.
I cried for help and tried to push the car horn. She twisted my arm and pushed it back.
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Mrs Kaul said she heard one of the girls tell the woman, "You can't do this." The woman then retreated, allowing the driver to get out of the car and run for help, with the girls behind her.
Mrs Kaul was left with bruises on the leg that had been caught in the car door, as well as various wounds from the assailant's ring.
Police said the woman also unsuccessfully attempted to take a gold chain from around the driver's neck.
Mr Turner said the woman had dried blood around her mouth and on her T-shirt.
It appeared she had been involved in an event earlier in the afternoon that had not been reported to police.
He said police were keen to speak to anyone who saw a woman matching their description in the areas of Papamoa Plaza, Domain Rd and The Gardens Drive on Friday.
The Bay of Plenty Times interviewed Mrs Kaul after it was alerted to the incident by John Leadbetter who was staying with his parents near where the attempted carjacking took place.
He said many people in the area were retirees and were alarmed at what had happened. "They think it is a safe area."
The police were called by the area's Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator Dianne Petersen who was approached by Mrs Kaul and her husband Bhupinder immediately after the incident.
She described the actions of the two girls as "absolutely magnificent".
They were clearly very frightened of the woman.
The woman fled when she saw Mrs Kaul, her husband and the girls returning. He gave chase but she disappeared in the direction of the shops.
Tauranga police's description of the suspect:
* Female Maori in mid-20s
* Solid to fat build
* Wearing a dark blue hoodie pulled over her head, white T-shirt, blue shorts and jandals
* Nose ring in her left nostril and ankle bracelet on left ankle