Levin standoff comes to fiery end as residents of Bledisloe St return to sense of normalcy


  • Residents evacuated due to the standoff have returned home.
  • About 80 people had been evacuated from properties close to the standoff.
  • The man at the centre of the Levin standoff is in Palmerston North Hospital with moderate injuries, police said on Saturday morning.
  • Paul Smith is understood to be the man who was barricaded inside.

Residents of Levin’s Bledisloe St and surrounding areas are returning to a sense of normalcy after a tense standoff between police and a man holed up in a house ended with fire, and the man in hospital.

There is still a police presence in the area, with a scene guard stationed outside the house. Scene examinations will continue today.

In a statement on Saturday morning police said the man was in Palmerston North Hospital with moderate injuries. His condition was initially recorded as critical on Friday night.

Officers will go door-to-door today to speak with residents and ensure they have support, the statement said.

READ MORE:
* Levin standoff: Man in critical condition after fire
* 80 people still unable to return home as man barricades himself in Levin house

Bledisloe St was still and quiet on Saturday morning. A police car could be seen in front of the property where the fire had been.

There is a burnt hole through the roof and another gaping hole could be seen through a smashed window.

The occasional car could be seen passing by, people curious at what was left of the house.

A fire truck arrived at the scenea around 10am, and two masked-up firefighters headed into the house.

More residents were emerging after a tough couple of days, while some were just returning eager to have a shower and a change of clothes.

Freyberg St resident Andy Smith said on Saturday morning that he was not at home at the time of the fire and had come out to see the aftermath.

The first thing he noticed when he woke up was the lack of flashing lights in his bedroom, which had been stationed outside his house. His house was just outside the cordons, and he was not asked to evacuate.

Levin resident Andy Smith’s house was positioned just outside the cordon, which was removed on Friday night.

Jericho Rock-Archer/Stuff

Levin resident Andy Smith’s house was positioned just outside the cordon, which was removed on Friday night.

“I was expecting the house to be toast, but it looks fixable,” Smith said. The incident had been “a little bit unsettling”.

“There was all sorts of reports of bombs and chemicals… we didn’t really know what the hell was going on.”

His friends suggested he evacuate and it crossed his mind, but Smith decided to stay put. “I’m not in direct line of fire.”

Smith said he had lived at his home for 16 years and the neighbourhood was “pretty quiet”. Neighbours generally got on, but mostly kept to themselves, he said.

“This sort of thing for Levin… something of this nature is very rare. It doesn’t go to this extent.”

He didn’t know the man at the centre of the incident very well and didn’t see him often, but watched the condition of the house deteriorate over several months.

New extensions to the fence had been built and the windows boarded up.

Gas bottles could be seen outside the house on Saturday morning.

Jericho Rock-Archer

Gas bottles could be seen outside the house on Saturday morning.

Smith said it was a relief for neighbours to be able to return home.“It’s just good to be able to get back to normal now.”

Late Friday residents who had been evacuated were allowed back home after being told to leave on Thursday afternoon.

The incident was resolved late on Friday night, after the man was found alive following the fire. The man had been barricaded inside since Thursday.

It took fire crews “a significant amount of time” to put the fire out. The man’s dog was also found alive.

A new day revealed the extent of damage to the house. The man who had barricaded himself inside was taken to hospital in critical condition on Friday night after the fire.

Jericho Rock-Archer/Stuff

A new day revealed the extent of damage to the house. The man who had barricaded himself inside was taken to hospital in critical condition on Friday night after the fire.

Bledisloe St residents could expect to see a continued police presence in the street in the coming days as well, “but we want to reassure residents that there is no need for concern”, police said.

“We know that this incident has been very disruptive for those residents who were evacuated, as well as being very unsettling for the wider community,” Manawatū Area Commander Inspector Sarah Stewart said in a statement.

Earlier on Friday night, Danny and Jacob Hoeta said they saw orange flashes, followed by smoke billowing from the house and a burning smell after 7pm.

The emergency services which had been on standby moved closer to the property to spray the house with water, with the area lit up by spotlights from a large truck.

Fire crews were seen outside the house on Friday night when a fire broke out. The blaze was eventually put out.

WARWICK SMITH/Stuff

Fire crews were seen outside the house on Friday night when a fire broke out. The blaze was eventually put out.

Another onlooker, Fergus Hughes, said his in-laws were only a few houses down from the house.

”I’m not really thinking about too much else. I’m just worried for them and how they’re getting on.”

How it began

The standoff between a man inside the Bledisloe St property and armed police began about 4.30pm on Thursday.

Dozens of neighbours were forced to leave their homes as a precaution.

A resident from one of the neighbouring streets, Jason Larsen, said the man living in the house had boarded up the windows and doors in the months before the incident.

He said that the man had built a fence out the front and spray-painted it with anti-government slogans.

The veranda at the front of the house had also been taken apart by the man, Larsen said.

STUFF

Manawatū Area Commander Sarah Stewart and mayor Bernie Wanden could offer little information at the stand up.

At a Friday press conference police offered no information about whether the man, understood to be Paul Kenneth Smith, was armed.

On Thursday morning Smith called Stuff‘s Manawatū newsroom in an agitated state, saying he was about to be evicted, that he has weapons and chemicals at the property and will resist attempts to remove him. Police were notified.

Some residents said they had been told there was a “bomb” scare, while others said the evacuation related to “chemical weapons”.

AOS directing their attention to a property on Bledisloe St, Levin on Friday morning.

David Unwin/Stuff

AOS directing their attention to a property on Bledisloe St, Levin on Friday morning.

Stewart said this information had not been provided by police.

“There’s a lot of detail I can’t confirm at this time,” she told media.

Smith has made several social media posts since the incident began, airing his grievances.

Cobham St is blocked off at Meadowvale Drive. Freyberg St is closed off at Bledisloe St.

Neighbours told to stay clear as standoff unfolded

Cobham St resident Tyla Porteous found herself shut inside the cordon with her 1-year-old son and partner.

About 6pm on Thursday night, as they were preparing to evacuate, police told them it was now it was too late and to get back inside their home. Just them and one other household had not been evacuated.

Police had blocked off her driveway, which was being used as a set-up point.

A police negotiation team was in communication with the man inside the Bledisloe St property.

David Unwin/Stuff

A police negotiation team was in communication with the man inside the Bledisloe St property.

She said the man at the property, which was next door to hers, was a “good neighbour” who “just wants to live in his house”.

“I just want to give him a cuddle. Paul is a good neighbour.”

On Friday morning, Porteous and her partner took food and drinks out for emergency services volunteers who had been out all night, but were immediately told to get back inside.

There was an oxygen chamber in her driveway and people with masks come in, redress, and refill their tanks about every hour.

AOS were outside the house on Friday as police negotiated with the man barricaded inside.

David Unwin/Stuff

AOS were outside the house on Friday as police negotiated with the man barricaded inside.

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