A 32-year-old man who has been on the run for more than four days, escaped police custody while receiving treatment at Wairarapa Hospital it was made public on Monday.
James Maurirere was waiting to appear in Masterton District Court on family harm charges when he reported feeling ill last Thursday afternoon.
Wairarapa Area Commander Detective Inspector Scott Miller said ambulance staff were called to examine Maurirere and officers were advised he be taken to hospital.
Miller said Maurirere was at the hospital in police custody for more than an hour where he was examined and tests were run by medical staff.
During that time, police were notified that two of his family members had turned up at the hospital and were creating a disturbance.
It was decided to deal with the situation as the safety of hospital staff and the public was compromised, Miller said.
While that was happening, Maurirere took the opportunity to leave the hospital through the back entrance.
Miller said Maurirere was not handcuffed during the examination.
“There is a balance between supervising the person in custody and the care of the person,” he said, adding that the focus while at hospital was on their health.
Nevertheless, it was “no doubt a regrettable mistake”, Miller said.
It was unclear if the events were planned, he said, but it was suspicious and the family certainly enabled the events to unfold.
Miller said the officers were debriefed and a review was conducted right away.
In future, more staff would be available so that someone would be with the person in custody at all times, he said.
Since the escape, the family harm team have been in contact with those considered at risk from Maurirere’s offending and a safety plan was in place.
Miller said there had been two possible sightings of the escapee in Wairarapa and Hutt Valley.
He is known to have associates in Manawatu and Levin as well.
“Most people around the country don’t support family harm offenders,” Miller said. “Any information about Maurirere’s whereabouts is what we are looking for.”
Wairarapa District Health Board communications manager Anna Cardno said they worked with police when a patient was in custody, but their job was to treat the patient.
“Wairarapa District Health Board work around what is needed in terms of security of the patient when in police custody.”