Mall hostage’s ter­ror be­fore Swift

Mum re­fused to let daugh­ter’s birth­day be ru­ined de­spite knife to throat

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS - Ben Leahy

Amother held at knife­point in an Auck­land mall had been on a dream trip with her daugh­ter to see pop star Tay­lor Swift in con­cert when she was grabbed from be­hind.

Christchurch mum Laura Wheeler had just ar­rived in Auck­land on a trip planned as a birth­day treat for her daugh­ter, Jes­sica, 14, when they vis­ited West­field Manukau City shop­ping mall early on Fri­day.

The plan had been to have a snack be­fore head­ing to nearby Rain­bow’s End theme park and then on to Swift’s con­cert at Mt Smart Sta­dium.

But it was while her daugh­ter was eat­ing McDon­ald’s nearby that the mum heard screams and was grabbed from be­hind.

Wheeler said she was held at knife­point for more than an hour with po­lice called to the scene at 8.50am.

“There were times when I thought, ‘This is not even real, this is not hap­pen­ing’, and then times when re­al­ity kicked in and I was like: ‘What the hell is go­ing on, I’m never go­ing to see my kids again’,” she told the Her­ald on Sun­day.

Po­lice later praised her brav­ery in re­main­ing calm.

Wheeler said she was thank­ful her daugh­ter had not been next to her when she was snatched.

She was also ex­tremely thank­ful to the po­lice for end­ing the in­ci­dent with­out any­one get­ting hurt.

Wheeler said she fin­ished giv­ing a state­ment to po­lice by 12.30pm and then set about en­sur­ing her daugh­ter’s birth­day was not ru­ined, car­ry­ing on to Rain­bow’s End and Swift’s con­cert.

And even though the rain fell dur­ing the con­cert, it was “great”.

“There was no way my daugh­ter was miss­ing out on that no mat­ter what hap­pened.”

A man was even­tu­ally ar­rested for al­legedly tak­ing the woman hostage at about 10am af­ter po­lice de­fused the sit­u­a­tion through ne­go­ti­a­tions. The man yes­ter­day briefly ap­peared at Manukau District Court charged with un­law­fully de­tain­ing the woman with­out her con­sent.

He was granted tem­po­rary name sup­pres­sion and re­manded in cus­tody. He is due to reap­pear in court to­mor­row morn­ing.

At a press con­fer­ence af­ter the in­ci­dent, Coun­ties Manukau Area Com­man­der In­spec­tor Adam Pyne said the woman was not known to the al­leged of­fender and was “picked ran­domly”.

Po­lice were called at 8.50am and at the scene within min­utes, he said.

“The first of­fi­cer on the scene im­me­di­ately be­gan ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

Po­lice ne­go­ti­ated for about 40 min­utes be­fore the man dropped the knife, which had a 12.5cm blade, and re­leased the vic­tim.

The knife had been held to her throat and the Armed Of­fend­ers Squad had been called, Pyne said.

“It took a long time but they were able to dif­fuse the sit­u­a­tion.”

Laura Wheeler was in Auck­land with daugh­ter Jes­sica, 14, for a con­cert.

The vic­tim is held at knife­point.

Michael Mur­phy

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