Explosions at siege scene, police believe Napier gunman dead

By Andrew Koubaridis, Patrick Gower, Rachel Tiffen

Police last night believed the Napier gunman to be dead and early this morning large explosions were heard at the scene.

A loud explosion rocked the quiet suburban area about 3.30am.

"We heard one loud explosion and it also seemed as if there were gunshots as well," photographer Kerry Marshall said.

He added a four-wheel drive vehicle came out of the cordon lines about the same time, driven by what looked like an Armed Offenders Squad member.

Newstalk ZB radio suggested the blast was caused by explosives set by a robot normally used to destroy bombs.

A number of Armed Offenders Squad vehicles have left the incident HQ this morning as have armed police on foot.

The Weekend Herald understood officers were planning to approach the house at first light today.

They would not move at night because of fears - based on what a friend of gunman Jan Molenaar told them - that the house could be booby trapped.

Arthur Hyde told the Weekend Herald police should not even consider going inside yet as Molenaar was more than capable of wiring the house with explosives.

But police were able last night to recover the body of their fallen comrade, Senior Constable Len Snee, from where it lay in the garden of Molenaar's property.

It had been there for almost a day and a half, since Molenaar shot Mr Snee and three other people on Thursday morning.

Police made the recovery using tank-like Army light armoured vehicles and under a hail of automatic gunfire.

The two Army LAVs pulled up outside Molenaar's two-storey home on Chaucer Rd in Napier soon after 5pm yesterday.

Chaucer Rd resident Wayne Rollinson - who had a clear view of Molenaar's house up the road - told the Weekend Herald he could see bomb squad robots being used to recover Mr Snee's body.

"Two tanks came in to get the body. They passed him to one tank, which came out and the other one stayed there.

"Jan was firing and there was returned fire too - I wouldn't be surprised if he got shot.

"We thought he might've got shot - it was quiet. And then there were more shots. It was like he'd pull the trigger once and 10 shots came out."

Mr Rollinson said he heard an initial volley of about six rounds, and he was sure it was Molenaar firing.

Then came more rapid automatic fire, this time up to 20 rounds.

This was when "the tanks and armed offenders squad opened up".

He said that around 9.45pm, police officers were still on the street.

"It's all dark and he [Molenaar] is still up there. There's no movement, no noise, nothing. But there's still cops outside his house and on the street."

The first of the LAVs returned to the Army base shortly before 6pm, when police revealed that Mr Snee's body had been recovered. The other returned soon afterwards.

Eastern district commander Sam Hoyle earlier described the inability to recover Mr Snee's body as hideous for his family and for the friends and colleagues who had kept working through the siege.

"We are pleased for the family that we are able to bring him out - it has been a traumatic and immensely difficult time for them," he said.

No officers were injured in the retrieval of the body, nor in any of the other clashes in the siege, which began after Molenaar fatally wounded Mr Snee and critically injured his fellow senior constables Grant Diver and Bruce Miller as well as a civilian who has not been publicly identified.

Local residents said Molenaar's house had panoramic views and a closed-circuit security camera at the front.

Molenaar did not have a gun licence, but he had many weapons, a lot of ammunition and possibly explosives.

One associate told the Weekend Herald that police let two young friends of Molenaar take food to him yesterday morning.

The woman - a friend of those who took the food and who asked not to be named - said they told her that 51-year-old Molenaar had "a shitload of ammo".

They said Molenaar had bomb-making materials and a powerful semi-automatic rifle.

Mr Hoyle said telephone negotiations with Molenaar had gone back and forth, and the gunman had sometimes called police.

He described him as a "complex character" but would not discuss his possible motive for the shootings.

One local teenager, Alex Cunliffe, 16, said Molenaar had been unhappy with police, believing they had a racist attitude towards his Maori partner.


- NZ Herald

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