Armed suspect still at large in Far North bush

By Mike Dinsdale, Peter de Graaf

Armed police are today still hunting for a fugitive believed to be roaming Far North bush with a rifle.

Police called on the public to report anything suspicious in the Kaingaroa area, northeast of Kaitaia, and to call 111 immediately if they see the man.

He was described as a 41-year-old Pakeha with fair hair, about 1.77m tall, of medium build, and with a "rough appearance". When last seen heading into the bush, he wore a singlet and camouflage shorts.

The Advocate understands the man had pulled over in Duncan Rd after a police pursuit about 1.30pm on Wednesday, then fled into the bush on foot.

As he went, he grabbed what was thought to be a rifle from the passenger seat. It is not known why he was being chased, but police said no warrants were out for his arrest.

The man is known to police and has a reputation in the Kaingaroa area as an experienced hunter, skilled at finding his way through dense bush at night.

A six-strong unit of specialist Armed Offenders Squad members and a tracking dog flew up from Whangarei by helicopter. They were joined in the search by armed police from across the Far North.

By late yesterday evening there was still no trace of the man.

Meanwhile, life returned to normal at nearby Kaingaroa School yesterday. Principal Paul Mathews said reports in some media that the school was in "lockdown" on Wednesday were not correct.

"The police contacted me shortly before the end of school ... and appraised me of a situation that they were dealing with," Mr Mathews said.

"They were searching for an offender in the Duncan Rd area and were simply concerned that we not send our school bus up Duncan Rd."

Mr Mathews said pupils from Duncan Rd were held back at 2.25pm while the school contacted parents and caregivers. All those children were collected within 20-30 minutes. The others were sent home as usual and would not have been aware of the situation.

Mr Mathews said he had been advised the school had no cause for concern.

Police urged anyone who saw the fugitive not to approach him but to call 111 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 immediately.

- Northern Advocate

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