A woman who panicked when she saw police doorknocking in her street has been caught trying to hide the same kind of rifle used by Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock.

The semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, worth upwards of $1400, was found in a case and wrapped in clothing behind a garage in Hamilton this morning after police were tipped off to the woman's strange behaviour.

In October Paddock used an AR-15 to shoot at people gathered at a concert in Las Vegas, killing 58 and wounding hundreds from a window of the Mandalay Bay hotel.

At 9am today police were executing a search for a wanted person in Odette St when the woman fled her house and jumped a fence into a neighbouring property.


Hamilton Police Senior Sergeant Simon Cherry said the 21-year-old woman was not initially the subject of the police search but when she ran into a neighbour's backyard carrying the "package" the neighbour rang police.

"It's strictly by coincidence that this has transpired. She jumped over her own fence into someone else's backyard which looked suspicious for the person who was in that house."

Police promptly found the woman in the Bader suburb but the package was missing.

"A subsequent search of the area found that rifle. She had tried to stash it behind a garage."

Cherry said the gun was a legitimate firearm which police traced back to the initial owner.

"But we're just working through how it came into this young lady's hands."

The gun was initially legally registered but had "since changed hands".

"It was potentially going to be used for organised crime purposes and it's a major coup that we were able to recover this and get it off the streets."

Cherry said the woman was not known to police.

He confirmed the gun was not the same AR-15 assault rifle lost from Hamilton by New Zealand Couriers in November.

That gun was being couriered to Wellington for repairs but never arrived.

The woman was due to appear in the Hamilton District Court today.