Average four a year flee police custody

There have been 20 escapes from police custody in the past five years within the Southern Police District, including five last financial year.

In December, Tolu Maanaiama (aged 27 at the time), escaped from the central Dunedin police station where he was being held in custody.

He ran away from the station about 3.30pm while outside on a smoking break, and it took police five hours to locate him. He was found at an associate's house.

At the time, police described Maanaiama as a ''dangerous criminal'' and alerted the public to his escape, warning he should not be approached. An investigation into his escape was conducted.

In response to an Official Information Act request, acting Dunedin Clutha Waitaki area commander Inspector Mel Aitken said the investigation had been completed and assessed as to whether ''learnings'' could be taken from the incident. She said there had been no change in police protocol as a result of the review.

''However, staff involved have received refresher training in custodial management protocols so that we can do our best to ensure that a similar incident doesn't occur,'' Insp Aitken said.

Shortly after the incident, Dunedin Clutha Waitaki area commander Inspector Greg Sparrow confirmed Maanaiama was in the company of a staff member in a locked yard at the back of the police station when he escaped.

''The man took an opportunistic decision to escape when another staff member exited through a security gate that is always locked, unless in use,'' Insp Sparrow said. 

Maanaiama had been taken into the yard so he could have a cigarette.

In 2005, Maanaiama was sentenced to four years in jail after the robbery of a Christchurch dairy while wielding a machete and imitation firearm.

-rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

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