Thefts, crashes, kicks and dognapping in trail of chaos

A man who witnesses said stole a ute with a dog inside, tried to roundhouse kick a construction worker and led police on a trail of chaos throughout central Dunedin was caught hours later in Oamaru.

It all started when police received a report of two men behaving suspiciously and damaging trees in Queens Gardens about 11.50am yesterday.

Shortly before officers arrived, two men, one of whom had taken off his shirt and wrapped it around his head, could be seen throwing two pairs of shoes into lower Burlington St before walking into traffic.

Two witnesses who were walking away from the park said the men had been abusive and appeared to be on drugs.

‘‘We’re pretty used to it, we’re from Auckland,’’ one said.

The men could be seen by Otago Daily Times staff meddling with a blue Toyota sedan, which was parked across the road, outside Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, where they stayed while police cars drove past.

While officers talked to witnesses in the park, the men could be seen getting in and out of the car, repeatedly opening and closing its boot before the shirtless man tried the doors at Toitu and ran off towards the railway station. His associate stayed in the car.

At the time, police said officers could not locate the men and the report was closed.

About 12.10pm, a witness having lunch outside the train station saw a man approach three Naylor Love construction workers with his fists raised.

The man was wearing the red shirt he was described as having on his head at Queens Gardens, tried to remove it and attempted to roundhouse kick one of the workers before fleeing on foot and running over the hood of a car parked on the train station platform, the witness said.

Other witnesses said the man then procured a bicycle with a basket on the front and disappeared in the direction of Thomas Burns St.

Shortly afterwards, KiwiHarvest operations supervisor Rae De Haan said a green Suzuki Escudo ute was stolen from the organisation’s driveway in Willis St, and the person who took it left a bicycle with a basket on the front behind.

The car belonged to KiwiHarvest driver Richard Yardley who had popped in on his day off. His black poodle Archie was in the car, which left Mr Yardley distraught and desperately scouring the area, Ms De Haan said.

It did not take long for the man to come to the attention of police again when the stolen ute crashed into two other vehicles in Cumberland St (State Highway 1) about 12.25pm.

Dunedin resident Matt Anderson said he was waiting in traffic at the St Andrews St intersection when the green ute rear-ended the van he was in, pushing them into the rear of the SUV in front and damaging the van’s radiator.

The man driving the ute sped off in a hurry, Mr Anderson said.

Another witness said the ute had hit another vehicle in the next section of Cumberland St, near the New World supermarket, and they saw it later driving north on State Highway 1 where it almost collided with two trucks.

An Otago Daily Times reporter who saw the ute driving north said it was shedding rubber from its wheels and had several police following, about five minutes behind it.

An ODT photographer said a trail of shredded rubber left on the road showed the ute had likely driven several kilometres on its rims before it had turned off into Pigeon Flat Rd.

Four police cars arrived, two of which went down Pigeon Flat Rd, with officers armed with rifles and handguns.

The ute was found abandoned, partly blocking the road where it had crashed into a bank.

Archie was sitting uninjured in the front seat, the photographer said.

It appeared the driver had taken off on foot into the dense bush in the area and it understood a dog team was sent to look for him.

A police spokeswoman said a 33-year-old man was taken into custody in Oamaru during the afternoon.

He was due to appear in the Timaru District Court on several charges, including assaulting a person in a family relationship, obtaining by deception and various charges relating to theft.

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