Details of a brazen escape by three men from police custody in Levin yesterday afternoon were made public with suggestions they fled on the spur of the moment.
Senior sergeant Sarah Stewart addressed media questions at a press conference at Levin Police Station today and said the escape did not appear to be pre-planned.
An arrest had been made in relation to the incident, Stewart said, although the three men Wiremu Eparaima, 30, Te Wera Hemara, 27, and Emmanuel Witana, 23, were still at large.
A 29-year-old Shannon man, who Stewart said was known to the trio, will appear in the Levin District Court this afternoon facing charges of assisting an escape and aggravated assault.
Stewart issued a warning for the public not to approach the men, and that anyone found assisting them would likely face criminal charges.
They escaped under a garage door at the station, she said.
Stewart would not confirm whether the men were in handcuffs at the time. They were
inside the court and were being shifted to a van inside the building when one offender released an emergency lever, while another held onto the officer.
"We are very focused on locating the three prisoners who escaped from Levin court yesterday afternoon and are appealing for any information," she said.
The focus was in Horowhenua where they had "very strong links" although police were aware of associates in other areas, like neighbouring Manawatū.
There were two officers with the three men, a police-to-prisoner ratio that Stewart said would be reviewed. They were in custody facing a variety of violence and driving charges.
On escaping, the trio approached an unsuspecting member of the public. The driver was "made to drive", she said, and that person was "very shaken up".
The men were likely to try to contact associates in the Horowhenua area, Stewart said, and urged anyone not to assist them and to contact police immediately.
"We are working hard to locate these offenders as quickly as we can," she said.
The men posed no specific threat to the public, Stewart said, but urged they should not be approached.
She would not confirm whether one of the men had a previous convictions for escaping custody, or whether they had gang connections.
"We have all available staff working on this and are extremely motivated," she said.
If any member of the public had any information they should contact 111, or Crimestoppers 0800-555-111.