Mall hostage’s terror before Swift
Mum refused to let daughter’s birthday be ruined despite knife to throat
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.