The manhunt for wanted criminal Dolphy Kohu and others with him will continue through the night.

The group - made up of Kohu, two other men and at least two women - went on the run from police, later ramming a police car, shooting at the two officers inside, and then stealing the police car and attempting to flee in it in the early hours of this morning.

Extra police patrols have been deployed in the wider Ohakune region tonight, after the arrest of one woman from Miro St this afternoon.

Two more people at the address are being spoken to by police.

Advertisement

Large parts of the Central Plateau were in lockdown today and schools around Ohakune, Waiouru and Raetihi were closed as police hunted the group, with the assistance of the Eagle helicopter and armed offenders squad.

Dolphy Kohu. Photo / Facebook
Dolphy Kohu. Photo / Facebook

Police have executed six search warrants - in Rotorua, Whakatane, Taihape and Whanganui - in the past six weeks in an attempt to find Kohu to no avail.

People in the area are advised to go about their normal business but be on "heightened alert" for anything suspicious.

Central District Commander Superintendent Sue Schwalger said Kohu needed to come forward.

"I would urge Mr Kohu to contact police directly, or reach out to us through his whanau or associates. We want to get this matter resolved quickly and peacefully," she said.

"Those travelling should not pick up hitchhikers or strangers trying to secure transport at the roadside, and report any sightings of hitchhikers to police."

Armed officers carrying out the arrest on a Miro St property. Photo / Supplied
Armed officers carrying out the arrest on a Miro St property. Photo / Supplied

Officers don't know exactly how many people were in the original group with Kohu, but said they knew who the majority were. Police were now asking questions of known associates of people in the group.

The police officers who were shot at were shaken but otherwise unhurt and the stolen police car was found after it was dumped in Raetihi.

Advertisement
A woman being arrested in connection with the manhunt.
A woman being arrested in connection with the manhunt.

Weather conditions had not been ideal for the search but had not hindered the police hunt, Ms Schwalger said.

"We are continuing to liaise with schools in the area about the latest situation.

"I'd also urge people in the central North Island area to ensure that vehicles, outbuildings and dwellings are secured overnight."

READ MORE:
Residents say 'there's been a huge amount of activity'
Who is Dolphy Kohu?

Police this afternoon said one person has been arrested in Ohakune in connection with the search.

"The search for Mr Kohu and those associates is continuing, and police continue to warn the public in the central North Island to be on the alert for anything suspicious," police said in a statement.

Advertisement
One person has been arrested in Ohakune in connection with the search. Photo / Josh Price
One person has been arrested in Ohakune in connection with the search. Photo / Josh Price

"Police will not be disclosing any further information about the arrested person at this time."

Trio caught in drama

Tauranga siblings Reuben Steens, 18, Lissy Steens, 20, and Hannah Ingram, 25, head to Ohakune every year to go skiing.

The trio arrived on Sunday and had no idea what was going on in the town until media and armed police turned up outside their rented chalet on Miro St this afternoon.

They watched as media surrounded their unit to get footage of a house, situated behind their house, where Dolphy Kohu is registered as living.

They said police arrived soon after and booted media out before armed officers descended on the house and arrested a woman.

The trio remained inside as the drama unfolded around them.

Advertisement

Local residents helped injured police officers

Raetihi resident Jenny Dekker said her daughter, Annabel, opened the door for two policemen about 3.30am.

"They were very stressed and bleeding and said, 'Sorry to bother you but we've just been shot at. Do you mind if we use your phone?'"

She added: "We realised it was a crime unfolding, probably right on our back doorstep."

The officers under fire ran around the corner and up Islington Rd to the Dekker's house.
Annabel Dekker, a doctor visiting from Middlemore, woke up when she heard a knock at the door at about 3.40am.

"It definitely sounded like quite a frantic knocking. But I just thought it was someone who'd found themselves locked outside the house."

She found two police officers - "one younger, one older" - at the door.

Advertisement

"I thought they'd come to bear some bad news... inform me of the death of someone on the roads or something like that. But no, they were obviously shaken about what they'd experienced for themselves."

Dr Dekker said the policemen "made their way to the one house that had lights on".

A ruined, smashed barbed-wire fence around the corner marked the spot where the offenders' station wagon left the road.

She said the policemen asked to use the landline, spoke to colleagues for about 20 minutes, then went to retrieve the police car.

"They did mention that they thought the assailants may have taken one of the cars."

She said it would have been a scary experience for the policemen.

Advertisement

Areas remain in lockdown

Maori Wardens in Ohakune have spent the day checking on elderly residents and local schools.

The town remains on high alert, with Ruepehu Maori Warden Justin Bishop saying the community is on edge.

Large parts of the Central Plateau remain in lockdown, with police asking people in Ohakune, Waiouru and Raetihi to stay indoors while the incident plays out.

The police Eagle helicopter has been deployed and police checkpoints have been set up across the central North Island.

The group - made up of Kohu, two other men and at least two women - went on the run after ramming a police car, shooting at the two officers inside, and then stealing the police car and attempting to flee in it.

The officers who were shot at were shaken but were otherwise unhurt, police said.
The stolen police car was later recovered intact, and police firearms which were kept inside were not stolen by the group, police said.

Advertisement

Police are currently removing the stolen police vehicle which was dumped near a marae on Whangaehu Valley Rd.

It is being loaded onto a tow truck along with the vehicle the fugitives used to flee Whanganui which was later dumped in Raetihi.

Police are guarding the scene of the recovered vehicle which has a prominent dent. Photo / Supplied
Police are guarding the scene of the recovered vehicle which has a prominent dent. Photo / Supplied

The rear of the station wagon appears to have suffered minor damage from crashing into the embankment, where it remains embedded, opposite the local marae.

The front of the vehicle has also suffered damage and has plastic or cardboard covering the front windscreen.

Two police vehicles, with armed officers inside, are sitting guard over the car and watching out for the group.

The New Zealand Herald has already seen one patrol car of armed offenders squad members drive past the scene.

Advertisement

Conditions in the area remain foggy, wet and cold.

• Story continues after the graphic.

Wanted for six weeks

An arrest warrant for Kohu was issued in July after the Department of Corrections applied to the Parole Board to recall him to prison.

Police have executed six search warrants in the past six weeks in an attempt to find Kohu.

They have searched addresses in Rotorua, Ohakune, Taihape and Whanganui, but have had no luck in finding him.

Corrections central regional commissioner Terry Buffery said the department received information from Police that Kohu "had been involved in criminal activity".

"On this basis breach charges were laid and a recall application was made to the Parole Board."

Advertisement

No further details were available, including the date on which the criminal activity occurred.

Kohu was not subject to electronic monitoring.

In a briefing this morning, Central District Commander Superintendent Sue Schwalger said the events unfolded after police stopped a vehicle and officers approached.

"They were shot at, so they've retreated. And then what's happened is the offenders have got into our police car and driven off," she said.

Later, the group abandoned the police car and an associate or associates in a "dark-coloured vehicle" picked up the group, she said.

Kohu's grandfather pleads for him to turn himself in

Kohu's grandfather has already pleaded for his grandson to turn himself in, saying he fears he will be shot by police if he doesn't.

Advertisement

"The only thing I can really add to it is for my mokopuna, for my grandson, to give himself up, come forward and give himself up," Te Tawhero Dolphy Kohu told Radio New Zealand this morning.

"The situation now, as much as I hate to think it, they're going to shoot him. His very actions have put him in that situation where they [police] have no choice."

Asked what he would say if he could speak directly to his grandson, Mr Kohu said: "Boy, I love you. Just give yourself up, that's all."

The plea came after police named Kohu as wanted in relation to the incident, which kicked off in the early hours of this morning when two officers got involved in a pursuit near Whanganui.

The car they were chasing rammed the police car near Ohakune about 3.30am. One of the people in the car fired twice at the officers. The group then drove off in the police car, which has since been recovered.

The group were considered to be armed and dangerous, police said, warning the public not to approach them.

Advertisement

Kohu's criminal background

Kohu was jailed in 2013 for shooting at a family on residential Hylton St in Whanganui.

One victim was left with shotgun pellets embedded in his skin and two others were struck by pellets.

Hylton St resident Jonathan Cuff remembers seeing the shooting unfold - just minutes after he met a calm and polite Kohu in the gardens on adjoining Brunswick St.

Mr Cuff was doing community service at the time and had just stopped for a water break when Kohu approached the group for a glass of water.

"He came across nice, quiet-spoken, friendly enough. And then to suddenly ... you could get trapped in a situation quite easily with a guy like that. He was pretty convincing as a nice, friendly guy.

"He said 'Thanks very much' and stuff, all nice and polite, nice and calm, and he walked away then a couple minutes later we heard all this yelling and shouting and we looked up ... and the guy that come up asked for a cup of water just whipped out a gun and started shooting at everyone.

Advertisement

"It was far enough away to not be immediate sort of ducking bullets kind of danger but watching people run and scatter, and then he shot someone and they fell over onto the road."

Mr Cuff said the scary part was how calm Kohu was before the incident.

The group did not see the gun when Kohu approached them so the incident came as a complete surprise, he said.

There were about three or four loud gunshots, Mr Cuff said.

Mr Cuff said he understood Kohu went to Raetihi immediately afterwards.

"The story was, when he did the scarper from down here, apparently he took off to Raetihi so he knows that area well ... He obviously knows some people up there or knows the area.

Advertisement

"What freaked all of us out was that he was talking to us just a couple minutes before. He just seemed nice and polite, calm, he wasn't agitated, he wasn't angry. Nothing like that."
Kohu evaded police for about six weeks following that incident before he was arrested in Wellington. He was on parole at the time for a 2008 aggravated robbery.

Schools closed for the day

This morning residents in the Ohakune, Waiouru and Raetihi regions were told to consider staying at home for the day, and parents urged to consider keeping children home from school.

School is closed for the day, please stay home and stay safe

Posted by Ruapehu College on Tuesday, August 18, 2015

School CLOSED today. Please stay home and indoors.

Posted by Raetihi Primary School on Tuesday, August 18, 2015

It has been confirmed that Ohakune Primary School is in Lockdown. Please keep your children at home. I will keep you updated on here and through text.Ohakune Kindergarten is also in Lockdown.

Posted by Ohakune Primary School on Tuesday, August 18, 2015

URGENT PLEASE: Please keep your children at home. The Police and National Office have directed that we must close school due to an armed person situation.

Posted by Waiouru Primary School on Tuesday, August 18, 2015

It appears that the police operation is concentrated on the Ohakune/Waiouru area. Ohakune businesses have been told to stay closed and keep their staff inside.

Posted by Peak FM on Tuesday, August 18, 2015

However, despite extensive searches across the region, police are no closer to locating the group.

"It is an unfolding situation," Ms Schwalger said.

"The first challenge is we don't know where these offenders are."

Police Central Districts Commander, Superintendent Sue Schwalger, updating media on the hunt for 5 armed offenders in the central North Island. Photo / Mark Mitchell, NZ Herald
Police Central Districts Commander, Superintendent Sue Schwalger, updating media on the hunt for 5 armed offenders in the central North Island. Photo / Mark Mitchell, NZ Herald

She added: "They are actively evading us."

Advertisement

Ms Schwalger urged Kohu to hand himself in.

Motorists in the central North Island were urged not to pick up hitchhikers or strangers until the situation was resolved, while residents living in the area were urged to "maintain a heightened awareness".

Police were "firmly focussed" on locating Dolphy and his associates, Ms Schwalger said, and officers were "leaving no stone unturned to find them as soon as possible".

"We have a large and highly trained team of police staff in the area actively looking for these offenders," she said.

"This includes specialist armed staff including members of the STG [Special Tactics Group] and AOS [Armed Offenders Squad]. The Eagle helicopter is also assisting in the search.

"I can assure the public that police will take whatever steps are appropriate to keep the community safe. We have access to a full range of tactical options and highly trained staff to deal with these sorts of situations."

Advertisement

Some schools in the area have closed their doors for the day, but all roads remained open to traffic, Ms Schwalger said.

"We do have police patrols and checkpoints set up in key locations looking out for these offenders, who are considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached.
"The public can also expect to see armed police throughout the region, along with police vehicles and helicopter activity."

Any sightings of the group or suspicious activity should be reported to police immediately via 111, she said.

Police are seeking Dolphy Kohu. Photo / Supplied via police
Police are seeking Dolphy Kohu. Photo / Supplied via police

Kohu breached his release conditions

Kohu appeared before the Parole Board on May 21.

Police on the scene of the unfolding incident in the central North Island. Photo / Robert Milne, Ruapehu Bulletin
Police on the scene of the unfolding incident in the central North Island. Photo / Robert Milne, Ruapehu Bulletin

He had been recalled to prison on March 10, after an interim recall order was made on February 10 this year.

His recall was due to an incident in Tauranga where he smashed the windows of a car with an empty vodka bottle. A report from the Parole Board said Kohu thought the people who had sold him the car had ripped him off, which was why he committed the wilful damage offence.

Advertisement

Kohu also breached his release conditions when he failed to report to his probation officer. He received a one month sentence for the breach and damage on March 19, but the sentence was not cumulative.

Police on Miro St, Ohakune. Photo / Robert Milne, Ruapehu Bulletin
Police on Miro St, Ohakune. Photo / Robert Milne, Ruapehu Bulletin

The Parole Board considered Kohu qualified for parole "given that in the next 10 weeks he is unlikely to commit any serious offending".

Ms Schwalger said she didn't "know enough" about Kohu to discuss his past behaviour.
Police weren't yet aware of, or disclosing, whether Kohu's associates had criminal histories, she said.

Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron had spoken to police who told him the situation was fast evolving but under control.

"Which I guess in police speak is, 'we know where they are but we haven't caught them yet'," he said.

"At least one of the perpetrators is well known locally," Mr Cameron said.

Advertisement

Everything in town was calm, and he believed the search was focused on a rural area South of Ohakune and Raetihi, Mr Cameron said.

"We know police are not focused in town."