3 Sep 2008

Injured NZ officer attacked by outlaw group

2:44 pm on 3 September 2008

The New Zealand police officer who was attacked with a machete while on duty in Solomon Islands had encountered a group of wanted criminals.

Constable Chris Renata was on routine business at a medical clinic when fighting broke out on Tuesday, and he was set upon by half a dozen men, about 9.45am local time.

Among them was Alphonseus Toghovotu who is wanted for a murder in Guadalcanal in 1999.

The Auckland policeman suffered a deep wound to a leg. He escaped back to his station and waited some hours before being airlifted to undergo surgery in the capital Honiara.

He is in a stable condition in hospital, and is expected to return to New Zealand to recuperate.

Constable Renata is based at a jungle outpost in Guadalcanal as part of the 15-nation Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, or RAMSI. New Zealand has 23 officers serving in the Solomons.

New Zealand diplomat Jonathan Austin, who is deputy special co-ordinator for the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, says Mr Renata was set upon while trying to call for back-up.

"They slashed at him with the bushknife. He managed to draw his capsicum spray (and) that gave him enough time to run out of the clinic and get on his quad bike and race back to the police station four kilometres away."

Mr Austin says it is not unusual for people to carry machetes, which are used in the bush and in people's gardens.

"But these guys had been wanted by the police for a long time and I guess they just weren't expecting to find a RAMSI police officer there when they turned up at the clinic."

He says a large-scale investigation, being carried out by Solomon Islands police supported by RAMSI police and troops, is underway into the attack.

RAMSI has condemned the attack as cowardly and ordered an immediate investigation.