24 Jun 2011

2 charged over home invasion after AOS callout

10:38 pm on 24 June 2011

Two men arrested in an armed police call-out on Friday have been charged with the gunpoint robbery of an elderly couple in their Hutt Valley home on Sunday.

Five people - three men and two women - were taken into custody on Friday afternoon in the suburb of Wainuiomata, following an operation involving dozens of armed police locking down the suburb for several hours.

Police say it began on Friday morning when two vehicles were spotted being driven dangerously. One was registered to a man they say they had wanted to arrest for weeks.

Three men have been arrested, and two charged with the aggravated robbery of a couple in their Silverstream home.

Malcolm and Yvonne Wiffen, both in their 60s, were watching television before three hooded men bound them, covered their heads and took tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

The two men, aged 32 and 35, will appear in Lower Hutt District Court on Saturday.

AOS callout

People in Wainuiomata were told to keep inside for their own safety on Friday, and a helicopter called in to assist with the hunt. Wainuiomata Hill Rd was closed for several hours as police at a road block checked all vehicles leaving the suburb.

Detective Senior Sergeant Paul Borrell says the Armed Offenders Squad was brought in because of recent incidents in the area where guns were present.

"We were investigating some reasonably serious incidents that have occurred around the Hutt and lower North Island over the last week where firearms had been involved. So yes, we elected to use the Armed Offenders Squad to assist in ensuring that they were apprehended safely."

Det Snr Sgt Borrell says a woman who was driving dangerously was stopped by road spikes and arrested. He says she then led the police to a property where four other people were found hiding in the ceiling of a garage, about 2pm.

"There was an adult there with two children, and they were safely taken from the address and we located the other four in a rear garage well away from the house."

Det Snr Sgt Borrell says it appears the two cars that set off the incident may have been racing.

Commotion everywhere - witness

A man who lives on Coast Road in Wainuiomata, and who only wishes to be named as Shane, says armed police arrived at a nearby address on Friday afternoon. He says they used a megaphone to ask people to come outside, and when there was no response they broke the door down.

"Armed offenders (officers) smashing the door in and running up the driveway, and just commotion everywhere - police cars, helicopters flying around the place," he told Radio New Zealand.

Motorist Jim McNicholas, who drove out of the suburb at about 11am on Friday, says police stopped and checked every vehicle leaving the area.

He says dozens of police and members of the Armed Offenders Squad were carrying semi-automatic and high-powered rifles.

Police told motorists it was a public safety issue but shopkeepers in the area say they were told police were searching for an armed man, and to stay inside their premises.

Heather Hills of Back to Basics Hairdressers, which is adjacent to the Wainuiomata police station, says businesses locked their doors and everyone was off the streets in the area.