9 Jul 2013

Police say motorway death wasn't suicide

10:31 pm on 9 July 2013

Police say a former soldier who died in a shoot-out with officers on an Auckland motorway did not commit suicide.

The pursuit ended on this stretch of motorway.

The pursuit ended on this stretch of motorway. Photo: RNZ

Caleb Henry, 20, died in hospital after being shot on the northern motorway early on Monday morning after being chased from Bay of Plenty while driving a stolen vehicle.

Shots from a high-powered rifle were fired several times from the stolen ute before the pursuit ended in an exchange of shots on the motorway, after tyre deflation devices had reduced the ute to running on its wheel rims. Police said several armed offenders squad members were in four vehicles which all stopped behind the ute.

Police have finished examining the scene of the shoot-out and Mr Henry's body was released to his family on Tuesday.

Five separate investigations have been launched to determine exactly what happened and police said they would take several weeks to complete. The Independent Police Conduct Authority is also investigating.

Caleb Henry was discharged from the army a year ago for disciplinary reasons. Assistant Commissioner Allan Boreham told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Tuesday that he was known to police, but not for anything significant.

Police Minister Anne Tolley defended the actions of officers who pursued Mr Henry, saying that his death is a tragedy but that there was considerable risk to police and public and the outcome could have been much worse.

Couple 'traumatised'

In a statement on Tuesday, the couple tied up and robbed at the start of the incident near Opotiki said they feel traumatised by what has happened.

Allan and Anne Looney, aged 66 and 62, said they find it hard to imagine ever feeling safe again. The couple have been released from Whakatane Hospital after having surgery for cuts.

The couple said they lead a very simple life and find it hard to comprehend that something like this could happen to them. They said they expect Caleb Henry's family are going through a trauma of their own.

Friend and Opotiki businessman Grant Lowe said the community is in shock and disbelief at the events. Opotiki mayor John Forbes described the couple as stalwarts of the community who are well-known for their generosity.