A dangerous criminal escaped custody at the Dunedin Central police station while outside on a smoking break, police have confirmed.

Tolu Maanaiama, 27, fled the station and remained at large in the city for five hours, before police located him at an associate's home on Wednesday last week.

Before his recapture, police warned the public that Maanaiama was considered dangerous and should not be approached.

The Otago Daily Times sought answers from police following speculation the prisoner escaped while having a cigarette break.


Inspector Greg Sparrow said in a statement yesterday: "We can confirm that the man was in the company of a staff member in a locked yard at the back of the police station when the incident occurred.

"The man took an opportunistic decision to escape when another staff member exited through a security gate that is always locked, unless in use."

The prisoner had been taken into the yard so he could have a cigarette.

Police would be not be drawn on whether the staff member was part of the CIB.

After the prisoner's recapture a review was instituted.

"The matter of whether this is appropriate protocol will form part of a review of the incident that is currently under way.

"It goes without saying that the security of prisoners is critical. We are reviewing this incident to make sure we do what we can to avoid it happening again."

Maanaiama did not appear last week when a Dunedin District Court registrar remanded him in custody until a later date on a charge of escaping from custody.