An invitation featuring a gun-toting woman got a quick response, reports TONY WALL



Drama producer Penny Ashton invited the Mayor of Auckland to attend a new play this week - and two days later found herself under police investigation.



The invitation to the opening night of the dark comedy Never Never came in an envelope with a photograph of a gun-toting woman stuck on the back.



Two unidentifiable lumps were inside.

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Superintendent Howard Broad, the Auckland police commander, took personal charge of the case.



The envelope was sent to Auckland Airport for an x-ray.



Police eventually deemed it safe to open. Inside they found Ms Ashton's invitation and discovered the lumps were lollies.



A crime squad detective visited her on Thursday and learned that the fearful photograph depicted the author of the play, acclaimed playwright Jackie van Beek, pointing a pistol directly at the camera.



Mayor Christine Fletcher and her family, living elsewhere temporarily, never knew the drama over their mail.



The letter was passed to police by tenants of their home.



Yesterday, Mrs Fletcher said she had still not seen the letter. The first she knew of it was when Mr Broad came to her office and asked if she had received any other threatening correspondence.



She said the incident was distressing because she had not been told the letter was harmless.



Ms Ashton said she was embarrassed at having caused such a fuss and would write a letter of apology to Mrs Fletcher.



She was impressed by the thorough police work.



Police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said officers had to take real or perceived threats to the mayor's security seriously, "and in accordance with that we follow the protocols we need to."



The incident showed that people needed to think carefully about the consequences of their actions, she said.



The play, about a distraught woman living out of the boot of her car, opens at the Silo Theatre on November 1.