Bay fugitive takes to Facebook

By Doug Laing

Friends of fugitive Hawke's Bay man Phillip Edwards were last night hoping he would surrender, after the convicted killer apparently took to Facebook to defend himself while on the run.

Believed to be worried about the possibility of violent arrest but wanting to give up after two days on the run, Edwards is believed to have posted a Facebook message from a mobile phone yesterday, saying: "I took boy because mother cut her wrist."

By 7pm, about 120 comments had been posted, some condemning the man and what they believed had happened, but others, including from friends and family in Hawke's Bay, sympathising with his plight. Most urged him to surrender peacefully, to which he apparently responded: "Hate me Condem me then show me your perfect."

One Facebooker, who had posted at least six comments, told him "Come on dude ask for help" and told others "he has his side i know that wat he done was not cool".

Television news reported last night the 33-year-old had told others the mother left a property they were at in the Auckland suburb of Panmure early on Sunday afternoon and Edwards left with the boy to look for her.

However, it sparked a major police hunt and missing 2-year-old Gabriel Witehira-Donnelly was found shivering and cold after dark in a shed at a property a few hundred metres away. He was alone in the shed, without a shirt and crying so loudly that two new police recruits were able to hear him over the downpour that lashed Auckland that evening.

Described by police as dangerous, having served most of a 9-year sentence for manslaughter in the 2003 fatal bashing of celebrity Auckland designer and television host David McNee, Edwards was understood to have still not been arrested last night. Late yesterday, the Parole Board clarified that Edwards was not on parole at the time of the latest incident. He was released from prison on parole on June 26 last year, for a month until his final release date on July 27.

A family member told Hawke's Bay Today that Edwards had come home to Hawke's Bay around about Christmas, and proudly announced to his Dad: "I've got a lady in the car."

Friends and family became fond of girlfriend Mary, from Northland, and had hoped he was a changed man - after the killing which happened ten years ago when he was living on the streets of Auckland.

Edwards and the girlfriend appeared to have since parted, leading to the relationship with 2-year-old Gabriel's mother.

He wasn't the child's father, but the family member said he believed Edwards' apparent claim that he took the boy for his own safety.

"He wouldn't have hurt that boy," the family member claimed.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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