'Great deal' done to ensure hostage safety, say police

Police forensics officers at the siege scene. It will take take two to three days to complete the scene examination and reconstruct yesterday's events. Photo / Rob Tucker
Police forensics officers at the siege scene. It will take take two to three days to complete the scene examination and reconstruct yesterday's events. Photo / Rob Tucker

Police say "a great deal" of work had gone into ensuring the safety of a woman taken hostage by a her former partner, who had just finished serving time for trying to cut her throat.

Anthony Roydon Ratahi, 46, from Stratford, was shot dead by police after holding the woman hostage for 12 hours at the Headlands hotel in Opunake, 65km south of New Plymouth.

Nine days before he grabbed the woman at gunpoint from her job as a waitress at the hotel on Friday night, Ratahi walked out of jail after serving eight weeks of a six month sentence for domestic violence against her.

The woman's brother confirmed that Ratahi was released from jail on July 6 after attempting to cut his sister's throat three months earlier.

Acting district commander Inspector Pat Handcock said police were fully aware of Ratahi's release date and had been in close contact with the victim and had put measures in place to help mitigate the risks to her.

"I'm not prepared to discuss the details of the safety measures we put in place but it is already clear from what I have learned in the last 24 hours that a great deal of work had been done by the local staff to minimise the risk to the victim."

Mr Handcock said it would take two to three days to complete the scene examination and reconstruct yesterday's events, but he was confident all actions taken by police were appropriate.

He said media reports that Ratahi was armed, dangerous and on the run the day before the siege were inaccurate.

Police had issued an appeal through the media to help them find Ratahi but he had handed himself in the next day, he said.

Three investigations have now been launched into the incident, which began when Ratahi barged into the restaurant at Headlands armed with a gun about 10.45pm.

Mr Handcock said he shouted at the 10-16 patrons to leave before barricading himself and the 30-year-old woman inside.

"...negotiations between police and the man continued on and off throughout the night, mainly by telephone."

"The man remained agitated and uncooperative throughout this event."

He stepped outside the hotel about 10.20am.

Mr Handcock said police challenged him, deployed a police dog and "there was a struggle prior to the discharge of a police firearm".

But as it was "very early" in the investigation, he was not prepared to discus the details and circumstances of the shooting.

Ratahi died at the scene.

The police shot was the only shot fired, Mr Handcock said.

A knife was found near his body, but police are yet to find a gun.

The woman suffered only minor injuries during the ordeal and did not need to be hospitalised, he said.

Detective Superintendant Andrew Lovelock of Auckland will be overseeing the investigations and police had contacted the Independent Police Conduct Authority who had appointed an investigator, Mr Handcock said.

"It is required by law that we complete three separate investigations. This ensures the integrity of the police process is protected and remains transparent an the public is kept appropriately informed."

About 20-25 police, including members of the special tactics group form Auckland and armed offenders squad from New Plymouth, attended the incident overnight.

Eyewitness reported seeing the woman beaten as the man dragged her from the restaurant.

- NZPA

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 29 Jul 2014 08:01:31 Processing Time: 514ms