With toddlers in their arms and armed police hot on their tail, a fugitive couple walked away from their crashed Land Rover "like they were out for a Sunday walk".
The man, 25, and woman, 20, had no chance of evading the large police contingent closing in on them, but were not prepared to give up their Bonnie and Clyde-style crime spree easily.
The Palmerston North couple had already walked away from the courts in Christchurch on bail to continue their spree over several days that led them from Picton, at the top of the South Island, to Palmerston, 50km north of Dunedin.
As police tried to lay down road spikes near the town of Palmerston yesterday, a shot was allegedly fired from the stolen Land Rover carrying their haul of stolen goods.
As they fled with the woman at the wheel, police urged residents and school children to stay indoors. Armed officers followed and repeatedly took cover as a shotgun was allegedly pointed at them.
The Land Rover crashed, and the group continued on foot despite minor injuries suffered by the woman and children, aged 18 months and 12 months.
Daniel Meason and partner Vicki Fleming watched the drama from their farmhouse 500 metres away. "He had a gun in his right hand and a child in his left," Mr Meason said.
"The woman was walking in front holding the other baby. They looked really casual, like they were out for a Sunday walk."
Glen Porter was working on a fence about 100 metres north of the crash site. "I heard a crash and saw a cloud of dust. I went to call the police but they were right there. It was obvious they weren't going to do anything with the kids there and the gunman was pointing the shotgun at them every 50 metres."
Police Armed Offenders eventually surrounded the man, woman and two children in a bushy area northeast of Palmerston, and the adults surrendered about 3pm, Inspector Dave Campbell said.
It is understood the couple made no attempt to hide their identities as they went about their spate of burglaries and using fraudulent cheques in the days beforehand.
Why they did it is unclear, but it is understood they owned a lingerie business that had been put in receivership.
They allegedly stole goods such as a television, a stereo, kitchenware, bed linen, a portacot and children's toys.
"When they were here, I said they are almost like Bonnie and Clyde, the way they're heading off, and it's sort of panned out... the way it's ended down there," said Detective Constable Chris Payne of the Picton police.
The pair came across from the North Island on a Cook Strait ferry to Picton on January 21. They headed to Christchurch and spent a few days there before their arrest for breaking into cars. Released by the courts last Thursday, they drove back to Picton and booked a ferry apparently intending to return to the North Island.
Instead they stayed a night at waterfront apartments in Picton, where they allegedly broke into a cupboard and got keys to open the owner's garage.
They left and headed south last Friday in the owner's Land Rover with stolen property from the apartments.
It is understood they travelled to the West Coast, through Lewis Pass and arrived on Saturday at the alpine village of Hanmer Springs, where they stayed for two nights. Cleaners later found the room cleared of a TV, stereo, cookware and bedding.
Constable Paul Lyndsay said the couple bought about $2800 of goods in Hanmer, including camping items, and there was concern the cheques used may bounce.
It is alleged other burglaries occurred in towns such as Timaru and Ashburton as they headed towards Palmerston.
The man has been charged with theft and the woman with failing to stop. Police say more serious charges will follow. The couple will appear in Oamaru District Court today.