Fugitive swims to custody

A 23-year-old fugitive foolishly braved winter waters by swimming across a Hawke's Bay river in a vain attempt to escape custody, only to find the long arm of the law waiting patiently with handcuffs on the other side.

The man - known to police by the aliases Abe McLean, Abe Makae-McLean and Abe Eparaima - had a warrant for his arrest after breaching his parole conditions, and on Saturday afternoon police attempted to apprehend him.

Eastern District acting Senior Sergeant Nick Dobson said Abe, who was travelling in a BMW with two others, allegedly fled police before also allegedly ramming a police car.

Police were unable to confirm how long the chase lasted or where it began.

He said several other units joined the pursuit before the BMW drove to the banks of the Ngaruroro River, near the Chesterhope Bridge, and Abe dived into the chilly water in a last gasp bid to escape.

"There was no way we were going to go swimming in the river."

Mr Dobson understood Abe was the only person "attempting to evade police" of the three originally in the car, while the other two waited on the banks with police.

He said a few officers simply drove over the bridge and on to the opposite bank of the river to wait for the their man.

Abe was arrested and charged with failing to stop and reckless driving. He will appear in Hastings District Court this morning and the BMW was impounded by police.

The 23-year-old risked hypothermia when he went for his afternoon dip, with water temperatures about 12C to 14C, according to MetService charts.

Maritime New Zealand states that in waters of about 10C, the average person will be semi-conscious or unconscious within one hour.

Death from drowning will often occur within two hours and, in waters of 15C, a person might survive for up to six hours.

Only two weeks prior to Abe's midwinter swim, a naked man was also arrested on the banks of the Ngaruroro River after he allegedly stole a car before a police pursuit in the early hours of June 21.

During that incident, police used road spikes on the vehicle, which came to a halt on the Fern Hill side of the Chesterhope Bridge bridge.

At the time, Senior Sergeant Ross Smith said three occupants fled on foot, and two jumped into the river in an unsuccessful attempt to evade capture.

Tracking dogs were deployed and the two swimmers located, including the naked reported mobster, before both were taken to hospital with mild hypothermia.

"I presume it is because he has dived into the river and didn't want to drown," Mr Smith said, when wondering why the man was naked.

Coincidentally, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council lists the Chesterhope Bridge as a recreational water spot and yesterday had the site catergorised as "fairly suitably" but just above "poor" for swimming at this time of the year.

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