Lockdown flouters ‘deeply sorry’

William Willis and Hannah Rawnsley. Photo / NZME
William Willis and Hannah Rawnsley. Photo / NZME
The Auckland couple who sparked outrage after flouting lockdown rules and flying to Wanaka have broken their silence, saying their actions were inexcusable.

Interim name suppression has lapsed for William Willis (35) and Hannah Rawnsley (26), who police say crossed the Level 4 border from Auckland using essential worker exemptions before driving to Hamilton Airport on Thursday.

The couple took a commercial flight to Queenstown via Wellington, then rented a vehicle and drove to Wanaka.

Police said they were notified via the Covid-19 compliance reporting tool online, and found the pair on Saturday afternoon.

Mr Willis is the son of Auckland district court judge Mary-Beth Sharp.

In a statement released last night the pair said their actions were ‘‘completely irresponsible and inexcusable’’.

‘‘We are deeply sorry for our actions and would like to unreservedly apologise to the Wanaka community, and to all the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, for what we did.’’

Mr Willis, an accomplished equestrian, is a director of Matawhio Sports Horses Ltd, which breeds and produces showjumping horses at Karaka.

Ms Rawnsley is a lawyer in Pukekohe.

The pair confirmed they tested negative for Covid-19 before crossing the border, and on their subsequent return to Auckland.

They were not considered close contacts of cases and had not visited any locations of interest.

The Wanaka holiday home where Auckland couple William Willis and Hannah Rawnsley stayed. PHOTO:...
The Wanaka holiday home where Auckland couple William Willis and Hannah Rawnsley stayed. PHOTO: KERRIE WATERWORTH
Interim name suppression lapsed for the pair at 7pm yesterday, and they did not seek further suppression.

‘‘We initially sought name suppression after receiving death threats and we had genuine fear for our safety,’’ they said.

‘‘However, we remain committed to taking responsibility for our actions and will not be seeking further name suppression.’’

In a statement, Judge Sharp said like the rest of New Zealand, she was appalled by the actions of her son and his partner.

‘‘In addition, I was and am highly embarrassed,’’ she said.

‘‘Had I known of their intentions, which of course I did not, I would have told them not to act so thoughtlessly and selfishly.

‘‘I do not condone their conduct,’’ Judge Sharp said.

She supported the couple’s decision not to seek further name suppression.

A spokesman for the Office of the Chief District Court Judge said Judge Sharp advised the chief judge of the situation and she ‘‘was not involved in any way in relation to the actions of her son and his partner’’.

‘‘To avoid any potential conflict of interest, the chief district court judge has put in place arrangements for a judge of the Wellington District Court to deal with any proceedings in relation to this matter,’’ the spokesman said.

The Wanaka holiday home is jointly owned by Mr Willis’ father Robert, barrister Tony Bouchier and his wife, district court judge Josephine Bouchier.

Mr Bouchier said the news that the couple had stayed there had come as ‘‘a complete shock’’.

‘‘We’re co-owners of the house but that’s where it ends.’’

He said if the couple had even suggested visiting the holiday home, he would have firmly advised against it.

‘‘We had no idea. We were not involved.

‘‘We are appalled as to what has happened and so that’s really all I can say. We had nothing to do with it.’’

Queenstown Lakes deputy mayor Calum MacLeod, who lives in Wanaka, said the community was gutted and grumpy about the pair’s actions.

While they had previously had name suppression, their identities had been known to some in the public anyway, he said.

They should have known better, he said.

‘‘But we’ll take the apology and we’ll move on.’’