After eight court remands without entering a plea, former fugitive William Alexander Stewart today finally pleaded guilty to 45 charges when he appeared in Christchurch District Court.

The man who spent the summer months playing cat and mouse with Canterbury police originally facing 70 charges. Police withdrew 35 charges and laid 10 fresh ones at today's appearance.

Stewart, 48, showed an uncanny ability to get past a series of police cordons set up to catch him during the summer months.

At the scene of one burglary he left a message referring to himself as "Billy the Hunted One".

He clocked up damage and stolen property worth $397,288 during his time on the run, the court was told.

The long manhunt began when a warrant was issued for Stewart to be recalled to prison for breaching his parole conditions. He escaped across farmland at Tai Tapu on December 8, and camped out in Canterbury, committing a series of burglaries to get supplies, and taking eight vehicles.

He was caught at Mayfield, inland from Ashburton, on May 27 when a farmer disturbed an intruder on his property.

The media reported him saying to the police, "I've had a good run" when he was arrested, long-haired and heavily bearded.

Defence counsel Glenn Henderson asked the court today for the indulgence of allowing Stewart to make an apology.

But Judge David Holderness declined the request and said it could be done when Stewart was sentenced on February 5.

He was handcuffed again during his court appearances today, and he will stay in custody for the crown sentencing.

The judge called for a pre-sentence report and a reparation report even though Mr Henderson said Stewart was unlikely to be able to repay the victims.

He admitted 23 burglaries, unlawfully taking five vehicles, four thefts, unlawfully interfering with a vehicle, escaping from custody, three charges of dangerous driving, three of failing to stop for the police, unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a pipe to smoke methamphetamine, and being unlawfully in an enclosed yard.

He also pleaded guilty to breaching his bail, and a community probation prosecution.

Stewart took eight vehicles while on the run. All were recovered, but one was burnt out and all were damaged.

He was involved in three high speed chases and he twice rammed police cars to get away.

His burglaries mainly targeted businesses in small country towns. Several of them were committed with a co-offender who was still to be identified, police said.

- NZPA