Youths who used a stolen car in a ram-raid at a Hokianga grocery store fled empty-handed and crashed after the shop owner gave chase.
Senior Constable Jeff Cramp, of Rawene police, said four to five youths used a stolen car to smash down the doors of the Rawene Four Square on Wednesday night, then tried to force the cigarette cabinet open with a crowbar.
The car had been stolen the day before in Auckland.
With the store alarm going off and the cabinet resisting their efforts they fled empty-handed. The noise woke one of the store owners who gave chase in his car.
Mr Cramp said the owner abandoned his chase at the Rawene crossroads but the youths may have thought he was still behind them because they continued at high speed on State Highway 12, eventually losing control at the top of Waima Hill and crashing off the road.
When police arrived a short time later the youths had gone and a police dog was unable to track them. That suggested they had been picked up by a second vehicle, Mr Cramp said.
The car was a write-off but there was no sign its occupants had suffered serious injury.
The raid had been captured on CCTV but the offenders had covered themselves, making identification difficult. The police investigation was continuing.
It was at least the third ram-raid at the store. Cigarettes were usually the target.