A 33-year-old man who bolted as he was being walked by a jailer from the Kaitaia District Court to the police station next door on Tuesday afternoon was a free man for about an hour and a half before he was apprehended. And he reportedly told the arresting officer that he had "gapped it" because he had wanted a smoke.

"If he had asked we would have given him one in the sally port," another officer said yesterday.

The man, who had been remanded in custody on family harm charges, reportedly jumped a fence into a private property, then ran along the Tarawhateroa Stream bank before hiding in the stream itself. Senior Constable Alan Duncan and his dog Yawk tracked him along the stream bank to a point near Taaffe St, below Pompallier Catholic School, where the trail went cold.

He was subsequently seen in Puckey Ave, the old Pak'nSave carpark and Commerce St, before being apprehended in the old Warehouse carpark in Matthews' Ave.

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He appeared before Judge John McDonald in the Kaitaia District Court again yesterday, and was again remanded in custody, police having opposed bail.

Senior Sergeant Richards thanked the members of the public who had assisted in the manhunt by pointing the pursuing officers in the right direction.

He had stood out from the crowd, he added, "given that he was sopping wet," although at some stage he had shed the blue police boiler suit he had been wearing.

Meanwhile court registrar Tania Parker said the escape was only the fourth she could recall in her 34 years at the court. One of those had involved a man who effected his departure from the dock, carefully picking up an elderly woman, who was there offering support from the Salvation Army, and moving her out of the way so he could get to the door.