Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

I don't want to go to jail: 8-year-old driver

TVNZ's Lucas De Jong and Charlie Brittain were on their way to work when they saw a 4WD Range Rover 'all over the show'. Photo / Thinkstock
TVNZ's Lucas De Jong and Charlie Brittain were on their way to work when they saw a 4WD Range Rover 'all over the show'. Photo / Thinkstock

Dressed in his pyjamas, an 8-year-old boy took his parents' car for a drive around the streets of inner Wellington early yesterday morning.

TVNZ reporter Lucas De Jong and cameraman Charlie Brittain were on their way to work at 5am when they saw a 4WD Range Rover "all over the show".

"[It was] swerving, going really slowly ... and then when it pulled over and smashed into the side of this other car, that's when we decided to call the police - at that stage thinking it was a drunk driver."

De Jong said the boy appeared to almost "bounce" as he went along The Terrace, one of Wellington's main streets, going through two sets of lights and almost colliding with a number of other parked cars along the side of the road.

De Jong, who was driving, followed the Range Rover while Brittain relayed information to the police all the while thinking they were tracking someone who was coming home from a night out.

"It wasn't until he started turning into the Novotel that we got profile shot of driver. And there was this little boy in his pyjamas. It was a shock situation - it took us a few moments to work out what was going on," he told the Herald.

De Jong said the boy, who he described as an average-sized 8-year-old, drove the Range Roger propped up against the seat, hunched over the steering wheel and almost standing on the pedals.

Once the boy had driven inside the Novotel Hotel carpark, he realised he couldn't get out.

"So we parked our car across the front [of the carpark] so he couldn't remove his," De Jong said.

The boy then appeared to start panicking and put the Range Rover into reverse - heading directly for De Jong and Brittain's car.

The reporter then jumped out of his car and ran over to the Range Rover to pull the keys out.

De Jong said the boy, dressed in his Ben 10 pyjamas, quickly became very teary and upset.

"The first thing he said was, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I just want to go home'. But I said, 'Look mate, you can't go home, why are you driving the car?'."

The boy told him that it was all right because he knew how to drive the car and said he just wanted to go home.

The pair tried to calm the boy down and told him that police were on their way to help them try to find his parents.

"When he heard the word 'police' that's when he really got emotional and said, 'I don't want to go to jail, I don't want to go to jail'."

De Jong said he was surprised by the boy's intelligence because as well as knowing how to drive, he understood that it was wrong and that there would be consequences for his actions.

Ten minutes later two "very shocked" policemen turned up and took it from there, De Jong said.

"He told [the police] he just didn't want to be at home so that's why he went for a drive."

Police told the Herald yesterday that they were working with the parents of the child to understand the family's situation and why the child took the vehicle.

Inspector Paris Razos, of Wellington police, said the parents of the boy were very upset about the incident.

"The parents were unaware that he had left the house ... they were as surprised as anybody. The last thing they knew was that he was asleep in bed - they were shocked and horrified."

Mr Razos said they had only heard of the wing mirror of one vehicle damaged in the incident.

The case has also been referred to Child, Youth and Family.

CYFS central regional director Karen Petrie said yesterday: "We've been in contact with the police, who have confirmed they will make a notification to CYF about the 8-year-old found driving a car in Wellington early this morning."

- NZ Herald

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