Police have revealed that there are people wanted on warrants to arrest that have been evading authorities for more than 40 years.
While some have left the country – others are still living their lives
in the community right under the noses of those trying to catch up with them.
And one former fugitive, who was on the run for almost two years and skipped the country, has spoken about how he avoided the long arm of the law for so long.
Police released details of the people wanted on warrants for the highest number of days to the Herald under the Official Information Act.
They released the 20 alleged offenders outstanding for the longest period of time in each of the 12 police districts, along with another 100 people whose whereabouts was listed as “unknown”.
The person who has evaded arrest for the longest time has been wanted for 16,198 days – just over 44 years – for allegedly having sex and performing an indecent act in a public place.
Second on the list – by just one day – is a person wanted on a warrant to arrest for traffic convictions.
There are two people wanted on warrant for driving with excess breath alcohol causing death – one actively sought for 13,315 days (36 years) and the other for 12,992 days (35 years).
Police would not release the names of those on the list, citing privacy.
Of those wanted police have confirmed 20 have left New Zealand.
Their alleged offending included sex crimes, drag racing, drink driving, shoplifting, wounding with intent, resisting police, wilful damage, assault and perjury.
They say others may also have left which explains why they have been “wanted” for so long.
Scroll down for the top three most-wanted offenders in each district.
Why? Police explain how people evade arrest for 40-plus years
Warrants are generally issued if an alleged offender fails to appear in court on active charges.
The signed warrant information is then entered into the Justice Department Court Management System as well and automatically goes into the Police National Intelligence Application.
Police then act for the courts to locate the person identified in the warrant.
When the person is apprehended and appears in court, the warrant is cleared.
“Warrants to arrest can cover a wide range of circumstances, from serious offending to minor offending,” said Inspector Nicholas Brown, acting director of frontline capabilities.
“Police prioritise locating people identified as being subject of a warrant.”
Brown said most of the “aged” warrants listed in the OIA response were for minor offences.
“Many of the most-aged warrants to arrest relate to very minor offending and the identified offender has, in many cases, probably left the country,” he explained.
When asked for the names and any images of those wanted, Brown declined.
He said the information was withheld to “protect the privacy of natural persons, including that of deceased natural persons”.
“If the warrant is still active, police have an obligation to consider, in the circumstance of each case, whether protecting the privacy of natural persons is outweighed by other considerations which render it desirable, in the public interest, to make that information public,” he said.
“Police do, on occasions, release wanted offender details through social media, media releases, or other channels where it has been determined that a wanted person is considered a risk to staff or the public, where apprehending them is a matter of urgency and public safety.”
Current examples of those wanted by police on warrants whose information has been made public on social media include:
Hone Reihana, 27, is wanted in relation to firearms and other offences following a shooting incident at the Sofitel hotel in central Auckland.
Police say the patched Head Hunter is considered dangerous and should not be approached – and they have warned that anyone considering assisting Reihana in evading arrest could be liable for prosecution.
Patrick Kitson, 28 is wanted for alleged violent offending.
A parole recall warrant has also been issued.
Kitson is considered dangerous and should not be approached.
A fugitive speaks: escaping police is ‘a lot of work’
A man who spent almost two years on the run from police – escaping to multiple Pacific Islands and South America before coming home and creating a new identity – says evading capture is “a lot of work”.
The man was on parole for fraud offending when police made new allegations against him.
The night before he was due to appear before the Parole Board, and likely be sent back to prison, he took off.
He spoke to the Herald about his escapades on the basis he was not named.
He is now reformed, a business owner, and does not want to bring attention to himself any further.
The night he scarpered he went to see his partner and kids to “say goodbye”, telling them it was almost certain he’d be going back to prison for a year – maybe more if the new charges stuck.
He drove through the night and parked his car at a tourist spot, leaving his wallet, cash and phone behind.
He wanted to make it look like, for a start, that he had taken his own life.
Meanwhile, a mate drove to meet him and they headed to a remote part of New Zealand.
“I’d told him to bring plenty of fuel – a full tank and a couple of jerrycans – because we were not stopping at any gas stations,” he said.
“I went straight to the bush … meanwhile the next day police were kicking down doors and trying to find me.
“I’d never been on the run before, I’d never failed to answer bail … my kids, my partner had no idea where I was.”
After a while the fugitive hatched the second part of his ever-moving “game plan”.
A mate was going to sail to the islands and he decided he was going too.
The mate sailed out of a North Island port with two others, their passports and travel documents all in order.
The escapee sourced a jet ski and met them 25km offshore.
They sailed for 13 days, managing to avoid being caught out by an Air Force aircraft with thermal imaging, outdoing surveillance.
“There was supposed to be three people on the boat and with their equipment if they flew over they’d know there was four,” the ex-con said.
“One of the guys ran below deck and lay on a bed and my mate told me ‘go down, lie on top of him and don’t move a muscle.
“I did and when they flew over, they didn’t pick up on anything.
“When we got to the island there was no Customs service to greet us, we just cruised in.”
The man decided his next stop was South America and he managed to get a new passport under a local name and booked a flight to Colombia.
He flew via another Pacific island, just to blur his trail further.
“I spent about 10 months in Colombia, but then I missed my kids,” he said.
“I needed to come home, so I got out of there.”
He flew back into Auckland on his fake passport and convinced authorities that he was above board.
After a couple of nights in a luxury hotel under the last name Del Mar – inspired by a box of Dilmah teabags sitting behind the receptionist at check-in – he spent the next few weeks manufacturing himself yet another new identity.
The chameleon criminal purchased a printer, hacked into the wifi of a city police station and downloaded documents including a birth certificate which he doctored and printed – using the surname Freeman.
“My fake name was A Freeman,” he laughed.
“I sat my learners licence and got that…. I went to Kiwibank and opened and account, and they gave me a $5000 credit card.
“Then I went in and applied for a Firearms Licence. I got that too.”
He grew a goatee, shaved his head, changed his eye colour with contact lenses and snuck down country to visit his mother.
Soon after that he was online and got chatting to an old girlfriend.
She disclosed she had been sexually abused and had been effectively ignored and victimised by police.
He was furious and reached out to the local area commander, using his real name and blowing his cover.
But that wasn’t his downfall – he still had months of freedom to go.
Paranoid he would get tracked to Auckland he rushed to a shop that sold religious garments and purchased a robe and hat.
Disguised as a Muslim, he got a taxi driver mate to take him to the airport via the hospital, where he pinched a wheelchair.
Then, feigning disability, he booked a flight to Queenstown.
He laid low, eventually making his way to Christchurch where he settled for a few months then to the Waikato area where his brother lived.
He needed some help on his farm, a remote property, and it seemed like a perfect hiding place.
Things were going well – until it all fell apart early one morning.
“What f**ked it all up was, I had an argument with my brother’s partner and she dobbed me in,” he said.
“I was stubborn, I was determined – I always had a bag nearby with my camo stuff and a week’s worth of rations in case I needed to go bush.
“I had a plan to get a passport and go to Bali, then Australia. I had no intention of getting caught.
“But one morning at about 4.50am the cops turned up.”
The telltale had told police the man had access to firearms – a lie – and may be dangerous – another fib.
They sent the Armed Offenders Squad, Special Tactics Group and other armed officers and dog squads to the farm to capture him.
“I heard the farm gate get smashed in and cars squealing up the gravel driveway, like they were drifting,” he recalled.
“I got dressed and opened my bedroom window and there was a laser (aim from a police firearm) in my face.”
Police were telling him to surrender, and the other occupants of the house went outside.
The man called his partner, spoke to his kids and said his goodbyes again.
They had no idea he was even back in the country.
“This is it,” he told them.
“In case I get shot by the cops, this goodbye.
“I knew I had to give up, and I went out … they had lasers on me, tasers pointed at me, dogs were barking … someone screamed ‘get down’ and I did – then they all jumped on me like a rugby team.
“They cuffed me with cable ties and put me in the back of a police car.
“And that’s pretty much it, that’s my story – that’s how you get away from the police.
The man spent a couple of years in prison for the fraud offending he was initially wanted for, and some other relatively minor charges relating to his bid for freedom.
Since then, apart from two minor legal blips, he’s not been before the courts again and is living a wholesome life with his family.
“Running from police, it’s a lot of bloody work … I wouldn’t do it again,” he laughed.
By the numbers – wanted on warrants in New Zealand
The Herald was provided the top 20 alleged offenders for each police district.
Here are the top three “most wanted” who have had active warrants to arrest for the longest period.
Used cannabis leaf 14,492 days
Using a document 14,227
Misleading ACC to continue to receive compensation 5385 days
Assault on a female 2655 (departed New Zealand)
Overstaying 15,742 days
Offensive behaviour 15,513
Theft 15,608 days
Illegal immigrant 15,312
Death through excess breath alcohol 13,315
Breach of probation 15,157 days
Intent to defraud 10,169
Intentional damage 9127
Traffic convictions 16,197 days
Receiving stolen property 14,575
Driving while disqualified 10,838
Drink driving 6369 days
Drink driving 6358
Drink driving, person under 20 5725
Bay of Plenty
Breach of maintenance 14,866 days
Assault and false complaint of crime 14,337
Indecent assault and assault 11,691
Drink driving 14,027 days
Perjury 12,322 (departed New Zealand)
Failed to render assistance at an accident 11,180
Breach of community work 5858 days
Wilful damage 3793 (departed New Zealand)
Burglary and fraud 3782
Misleading information to obtain finance 9064 days
Common assault 7982
Male assaults female 7778
Breach of community service 7852
Injuring with intent to injure 3871 (departed New Zealand)
Wilful damage 1690 (departed New Zealand)
Sexual intercourse and indecent act in public place 16,198 days
Breach of probation and unlawful possession of shotgun 16,197
Drink driving 16,056