Promising young sportsman at centre of five-hour siege

By Victoria White, staff reporters -

The hunt for an armed fugitive and former professional sports hopeful who desperately wanted to see his kids before going to jail ended with his arrest in northern Hawke's Bay last night.

The arrest of gang-affiliated Ihaka Hamuera Arapeta Paul, said by family and friends to have have changed dramatically after his father's death in July 2014, was confirmed by police soon after 7pm.

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It came after a day in which he had been the centre of an armed police callout in Hastings and a five-hour siege in Frasertown, just west of Wairoa.

Paul, who turns 27 later this month, had been on the run since January 28, after he allegedly presented a firearm at family members in Hastings and discarded an electronic ankle bracelet worn since he was granted bail awaiting trial relating to an armed dairy robbery in Palmerston North.

But it was not so long ago that he was a cleanskin in the running for a professional sports career, either with the Hawke's Bay Magpies ITM rugby squad or with Sydney rugby league clubs such as the Rabbitohs and Cronulla.

He trialled for the league clubs' Under 20 sides in 2008, and had Hawke's Bay premier championship winning medals to his name in both rugby union and rugby league before he had turned 22.

Police had said throughout the last 12 days Paul was armed and dangerous and should not be approached by the public, but as the siege unfolded in Frasertown, sister Chelsea Paul said 140km away in Hastings he had never threatened his family.

"He just wants to see his kids before he goes to prison, that's all he wants," she said.

"He'd never threaten us, we'd kick his head in if he did."

His sisters said it was upsetting to see the portrayal of their brother in media, making it "very hard time" for the family, aggravated by negative reactions online.

Armed police cordoned off streets as Armed Offenders Squad went to a house in Carroll St. Photo / Duncan Brown
Armed police cordoned off streets as Armed Offenders Squad went to a house in Carroll St. Photo / Duncan Brown

Frasertown School board chairman and Wairoa College sports co-ordinator Toby Taylor spent yesterday afternoon finding overnight stays for high school pupils unable to get to their own homes because of the Frasertown lockdown and closure of main road west State Highway 38. He was among those shocked by the suggested transformation.

A youngster encouraged by "proactive" parents, he was more than just a good sportsman, in which he was named the best player back in the 2005 first XV. "I don't know where he ran off the rails," Mr Taylor said. "He was such a genuinely nice kid."

With two children, aged three and five, he had also become a good father, his sister said.

"He's a good dad, considering how many out there don't care."

She said he had not been in a good frame of mind since his father's death, having been "the last one of us to see him alive".

Yesterday's drama began with a late-morning call for police to an address in Hastings, and a police armed offenders squad search of a property in Pakowhai Rd.

A witness told Hawke's Bay Today "heaps of cops" arrived, and added: "I thought there must be something pretty big happening, especially when I saw the guns."

Police Eastern District communications manager Kris McGehan said Paul was not found, but an armed Paul was later reported to have chased a man in Wairoa, leading to pursuit in which the fugitive was said to have pointed a firearm at police in Frasertown.

A resident of Carroll St, Frasertown, told Hawke's Bay Today he had arrived home during the afternoon to find armed police in the street outside, and Paul apparently on property nearby.

"I heard him yelling at the police - 'Come and get me!'," the resident said.

Another who knows Paul, the once clean-cut kid who had come to sport a roughly-tattooed insignia, had once had a good reputation as a worker.

Several people around him had tried to encourage Paul to surrender over recent days.
They were all shocked by what had happened, but alluding Paul had resorted to drug taking.

The house, after the arrest in Carroll St. Photo / Duncan Brown
The house, after the arrest in Carroll St. Photo / Duncan Brown

Family "just wanted him to get help"

Paul spent the last moments of the six-hour standoff with his family.

During that time Paul had been inside a Carroll St address with his aunt and potentially other family members. Paul's aunt said she "just wanted him to get help".

While they were inside the house they were "just having a feed", with some coffee and biscuits while they cooked up some kai. Following Paul's arrest several family members were on the scene, huddling together, visibly upset.

Paul's cousin had arrived in New Zealand on Thursday, and before yesterday had had no idea what was happening.

She said he was a good boy, a good father, and a good cousin.

Police said there were no issues with his arrest and no one was injured, and he would be facing a number of charges related to both incidents.

Senior sergeant Tony Bates, after the arrest in Carroll St. Photo / Duncan Brown
Senior sergeant Tony Bates, after the arrest in Carroll St. Photo / Duncan Brown

A Frasertown Rd resident, who did not want to be named, witnessed the start of the event. She had been standing outside her home at about 1.30pm when she saw Paul race past, chased by two police cars.

For the rest of the afternoon, she said police cars had been driving backwards and forwards from the "locked-down village".

"It was just a normal day and then I heard the sirens, and the helicopters."

Local hapu member Katarina Kawana said the local tavern had been filling up all afternoon, and the only good thing about the lockdown was that it might improve neighbourhood watch groups. Ms Kawana said she had gone inside the cordon to be with her family, but others who had come back to Frasertown after work were not able to return to their homes.

"This community is pretty family oriented, I am a bit concerned for the old people and the young people."

A Carroll St resident watched the standoff from his home. The man, who wished to remain anonymous, had returned home from work at about 2pm to find members of the armed offenders squad on his and his neighbour's property.

He said he thought Paul had been three of four houses down, as AOS members were all over the street and he could hear lots of yelling.

"I heard him [Paul] yelling at the police 'Come and get me'," he said.

"My kids were scared when I turned up, and I'm still shaken."

How the events unfolded

2015
• February 11: An aggravated robbery is committed at a Palmerston North dairy.
• March 19: Police issue an arrest warrant for Ihaka Paul in relation to the robbery. • April 1: Paul is arrested. He is granted bail and awaits trial.

2016
• January 28 Paul cuts off his electronic bracelet after allegedly making threats to family members.
• January 29 The armed offenders squad responds to a fleeing driver on Kennedy Rd, Napier, linked to the search for Paul.
• February 9
Noon: The armed offenders squad searches the home of Paul's family members on Frederick St, Hastings.
1pm: Paul presents a firearm to a police officer in Frasertown, near Wairoa.
6pm: Paul is contained in a house on Carroll St.
Just after 7.15pm: Paul is arrested.

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