A remand prisoner's dash for freedom from Whangarei Courthouse was short-lived after he was captured about two hours later.

His alleged escape from Whangarei Courthouse remained a mystery until a court staff member returning from lunch noticed a damaged security door and raised the alarm.

The 29-year-old allegedly smashed a thick sheet of plyboard above an interview room, crawled into the ceiling space before breaking a Gib panel to get down around 2pm yesterday.

The interview room has a metal partition and is used by lawyers and prisoners.


The man climbed down on the lawyers' side of the room and allegedly kicked open two security doors used by court staff to enter and exit before escaping.

However, his dash for freedom did not last long as he was found on Kauika Rd and arrested about 4pm.

He had earlier been denied bail on one charge of injuring with intent to injure and had been taken from the cells to the interview room to see duty solicitor Dave Sayes.

Mr Sayes said he spoke to the man for about 20 minutes then left him alone in the room.

"Security is taken very seriously at the Whangarei District Court but if someone's gone through the ceiling then it's an issue that needs to be addressed," the lawyer said.

The man has been charged with escaping from lawful custody and will appear in the Whangarei District Court today.

It's not the first time somebody has escaped from the courthouse.

On June 3, 2011, serial escapee Aaron Forden escaped from Whangarei Courthouse when he used brute force to remove a bar from the grille separating his area from where his lawyers had been sitting in an interview room and escaped.

Forden's previous escapes had earned him the nickname Houdini. Forden escaped from Mt Eden Prison in 2008 by crawling through roof cavities to a tower and using a rope of knotted sheets to lower himself over barbed wire.

He also became the first inmate to escape from the then new $218 million Mt Eden Corrections Facility in 2010.

In a short statement, the Ministry of Justice said it was separately investigating the incident and would be repairing the damage caused during the escape.