Police have named the three inmates who escaped from a prison van on an Auckland motorway yesterday.
They are Zane Hepi, 24, Billy Fepulea’i, 43, and 45-year-old Joseph Ng Wun.
The trio fled on foot from a transport van on the South-Eastern highway yesterday afternoon at 2.40pm, before stealing a vehicle from a member of the public.
They were being transported to Mt Eden Corrections Facility.
“Police are appealing to the public as work continues to locate three remand prisoners who escaped custody in Auckland,” said Detective Senior Sergeant Scott Armstrong this morning.
“Inquiries have been ongoing to locate the trio, by a dedicated team of officers, and we are today appealing to the public for information to help us.”
The men have connections across Counties Manukau and Auckland City, police said.
Fepulea’i was in court last year over an assault on a police officer that was filmed and later shared on social media.
The incident happened on January 28 on Tāmaki Drive near Mission Bay and left the officer injured.
Fepulea’i was later charged with assault of police, resisting police, possession for supply of methamphetamine, injuring with intent to injure, escaping police custody, possession of utensils for consuming methamphetamine, theft under $500 and procuring methamphetamine.
Some of the charges related to past incidents.
A motorist who saw Friday’s escape unfold spoke to the Herald this morning.
“I saw three people run across the on-ramp a few cars ahead of me,” said the man, who did not want to be named.
“Then I saw the (Corrections) van pulling over with the back door wide open.
“I didn’t realise they were escaping until I saw the van - so just wondered why they were running across the road.
“They looked pretty happy though.”
One of the men, who she described as being “covered in face tattoos,” jumped into the back seat of their car before yelling “go, go, go, go!”.
“I just had a full-on panic attack,” she said.
“We were really scared.
“I was fully paralysed and I didn’t know what to do.”
Based on police photos released today, the man was believed to have been Zane Hepi.
The woman said the man hadn’t managed to close the door of their car before they swerved into the truck lane to the left and sped off as fast as they could, causing the man to fall out onto the road.
“He couldn’t get the door shut and couldn’t get his legs in at that speed so just fell out,” she said.
“We didn’t know what to do so we just kept driving.
Superintendent Shanan Gray also appealed for anyone who witnessed the escape to contact police as soon as possible using the 105 phone service.
“This is an ongoing incident and further updates will be provided once they become available,” he said.
A Corrections spokesperson said police were informed immediately.
“We encourage anyone with information about the prisoners’ location to contact Police on 111,” they said.
“Public safety is our top priority.
“Any escape is unacceptable and an immediate review into how this incident occurred will be carried out.”