Morgan Tait

Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's consumer affairs reporter.

Car kidnap mum: 'She is one tough lady'

New car, new relationship - then horror attack leaves mother fighting for life.

Ana Eriepa used a $15,000 ACC payout to buy her first car ... Less than a day later she was fighting for her life after being dragged behind it at 100km/h. Photo / Supplied
Ana Eriepa used a $15,000 ACC payout to buy her first car ... Less than a day later she was fighting for her life after being dragged behind it at 100km/h. Photo / Supplied

Within 24 hours of buying her new car, Ana Eriepa was being dragged from the back of it at high speed as she tried to escape from the boot after being kidnapped.

Meanwhile, the three children living with her were waiting at home for their mother to return - unaware of the drama playing out near a small Waikato settlement.

Police then had to tell the youngsters, aged 8, 12 and 14, that their mum was in hospital fighting for her life.

They are still piecing together how Ms Eriepa, 37, ended up in the boot of her Subaru and why she was dragged 1.7km along State Highway 1 near Tokoroa at 100km/h.

A 26-year-old man who was allegedly driving the car has been charged with kidnapping, and will appear in the Rotorua District Court today.

An online profile says Ms Eriepa is a stay-at-home mum who previously worked part-time at a rest home.

An acquaintance of Ms Eriepa said she had separated from her partner, the father of her children, late last year. Last week, she added a new relationship to her Facebook page.

The acquaintance said Ms Eriepa had recently received an ACC payout of about $15,000, which she used to buy the Subaru in Tauranga on Friday.

"She never had a car, this was her first car."

Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner said Ms Eriepa willingly left her Rotorua home with the man, described as an acquaintance, before lunchtime on Saturday and the pair headed towards Taupo.

They stopped somewhere between Rotorua and Tokoroa, and police say the man forced Ms Eriepa into the boot, locked it and carried on driving.

At 1.45pm in Lichfield, between Tokoroa and Putaruru, Ms Eriepa managed to unlock the boot. But as she tried to escape the moving vehicle, her leg became caught and she was dragged along the highway.

Mr Turner said horrified motorists tried to force the man off the road, but he continued driving at 100km/h as Ms Eriepa bounced behind the car like a dummy.

Agricultural contractor Bernard Trumper, who driving towards Putaruru was one of the first to reach Ms Eriepa after she fell free.

"She is one tough lady, she deserves to live," he said yesterday.

He said that as he was driving his tractor, "I saw this dark-coloured vehicle come past me and this person being dragged behind by her leg ... She was stuck by the leg between the drawbar and the bumper of the car.

"It didn't look like a human rolling across the road and sliding down the road. You would have just thought it was a bag or rubbish. It was horrible."

A man and a woman in a white ute with a child had pulled into the oncoming lane to try to get the car to pull over, he said.

Mr Trumper said the woman finally fell free of the car. He pulled over behind her to try to protect her, flashing his lights at oncoming traffic.

"I noticed she was breathing and was conscious. I was with her the whole time until she went into the helicopter. She wasn't saying a lot, she was just answering our questions."

He described her injuries as "seriously bad".

"She's a very, very, very lucky lady and she is such a strong person to survive this. She was conscious and awake the whole time."

The driver of the car kept going until he was pulled over by police going into Putaruru, Mr Trumper said.

Ms Eriepa was flown to hospital in the Westpac Waikato Air Ambulance, and had surgery. Her condition had stabilised yesterday, but she was still listed as serious.

She has at least four children, but it is understood only three live with her. They were last night believed to be staying with their grandmother in Hamilton.

Ms Eriepa was not ready yesterday to speak about her ordeal but issued a brief statement through Waikato Hospital, requesting privacy and thanking everyone for their concern and support.

Mr Turner said Ms Eriepa had severe head and leg injuries and would require further surgery.

"She is going to have a significant stay in hospital and then ongoing medical issues."

- NZ Herald

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