US journalist comes to NZ for answers about one of Wanganui's stranger crimes in the past 20 years

It was 1996 and the Police Games were on in Wanganui when a 21-year old man walked into Star FM with a bomb and demanded they play the Muppets' Rainbow Connection for 12 hours.

Fast-track to 2014 and New York-based journalist Matt Gross is in Wanganui to solve the mystery.

He's asking: "Why that song and who was the person who said he had a bomb and tussled with Star FM manager Leigh Harrison?"

Mr Gross, editor for Conde Nast title Bon Appetit, was sent a list of "67 things you did not know about New Zealand" by a New Zealand friend.


The Rainbow Connection bomb plot was No61 on the list.

There were few details in the four paragraphs, but enough to pique Mr Gross's interest, so after attending a travel conference in Auckland he set his rental car on a course to Wanganui.

On arrival on Wednesday, Mr Gross was sent down a few blind alleys, but Radio Network manager Marty Lindsay was on-air radio presenter at the time and met the New York traveller.

"The Rainbow Connection was not on the play list," Mr Lindsay told the Chronicle, though the radio station had thought to get it since the drama.

No one seems to know what happened to the young man, but there was a suggestion he was given some time to recover from the episode.

Wanganui District Council youth services co-ordinator Heather Cox had just started at the radio station and remembers that Mr Harrison was locked in a room.

"He was held hostage," she said.

Midweek editor Paul Brooks was on contract to Star FM and remembers the incident.

"I was with cameraman Mac Brechmanis.

"We looked down Ridgway St which was cordoned off because of the bomb threat, so Mac lifted his camera and started filming."

The late Mr Brechmanis was on contract to film the Police Games at the time.

Mr Brooks said all the drama happened inside and, as they got closer to Wakefield Chambers, a small puff of smoke was seen coming out of a third floor window.

The bomb experts had blown up the "bomb".

"It was not much, it was disappointing, but there were scorch marks in the room for a long time afterward."

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