‘Panicked’ farmer fled from police

Southland farmer David John Wilson is relieved after his sentencing in the Invercargill District...
Southland farmer David John Wilson is relieved after his sentencing in the Invercargill District Court. PHOTO: LUISA GIRAO
A deer farmer who sparked a manhunt in Te Anau says he ran from police because he "panicked" and thought he "would be shot".

Professional hunter David John Wilson (52) was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after an incident last year when he interrupted a burglary on his farm, took the intruder into his lounge and kept him there until police arrived.

At the time he was charged with kidnapping and possessing a firearm. He was later acquitted.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times outside court following his sentencing yesterday, he described how he still felt uncomfortable when dealing with police officers.

The whole incident seemed like he was " watching a movie from far away".

He said the trauma led him to run away from police when he became the subject of an extensive manhunt in April, when the country was at Alert Level 4.

Crown prosecutor Mike Brownlie said Wilson was driving about 9.20am on State Highway 95 between Manapouri and Te Anau when a police officer was stopping cars.

He recognised her from his previous charge.

The officer followed him and pulled him over, but he was reluctant to have any communication.

He then drove off.

The police followed him for 20km until he stopped near a road spike.

A police officer in a "ready position" with his firearm shouted to him andtold him he was under arrest.

The man, who has hearing problems, told the court he could not hear the instructions.

The police broke the car windows and tried to take his keys but Wilson drove off, dragging the police officer backwards with the vehicle and crashing into the police car.

Police continued to search for him. Wilson surrendered himself the next day.

Wilson yesterday appeared before Judge Bernadette Farnan in the Invercargill District Court where he faced three charges of reckless driving, driving dangerously causing injury and failing to stop when requested by the police.

Defence lawyer Fiona Guy Kidd QC said she would speak on three matters before the sentencing — the post-traumatic effect on her client as he admitted he was not being "his normal self", the injuries suffered by the police officers were low level and an inaccurate statement from the police which said the man was armed, which he was not.

The judge described the case as "unusual" and the Crown had a "compassionate" position in relation to the matter.

The man was disqualified for driving for three months and ordered to pay $25,000 as reparation to the police.

Outside court after the sentencing, Wilson said he was pleased with the outcome.

He admitted he was completely overwhelmed when the incident happened and his flight response was like a self-defence action.

luisa.girao@odt.co.nz

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