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'Incredibly risky' operation at end of siege

Published: 12:26PM Saturday May 09, 2009 Source: ONE News/ Newstalk ZB/NZPA

Police say they took a big risk when they entered the Napier house at the centre of a 50-hour armed siege but it was a risk that paid off.

Jan Molenaar, 51, had been holed up in his home since Thursday morning when he allegedly shot dead Senior Constable Len Snee and seriously wounded two other officers and a civilian.

A team of five officers crept into the Chaucer Road house which they thought could have been rigged with explosives and found the body of Molenaar.

They entered the building just after 11am Saturday and painstakingly made their way room by room through the house, being careful to avoid  possible booby traps.
 
They found Molenaar's body at midday in the first floor master bedroom where he had barricaded himself in. The officers immediately withdrew, leaving it to the police bomb squad to check the house.

The bomb squad searched the house which was the centre of the siege that lasted more than two days.

People living nearby, frightened as bullets hit their house, are now relieved it's all over.

"We thought he was shooting at helicopters but it was coming through here. You could feel the house shake...'cause he let off a volley of six shots all at once," says John Pryor, a neighbour.

Earlier, police unsuccessfully used a robot to try and detect where Molenaar was inside his house.

So without knowing whether he was dead or alive, five policemen entered the property.

"It was incredibly risky . We had achieved all we could without entering, by exploring other tactics. This was a last resort if you like," Superintendent Sam Hoyle, Eastern District Commander, told a press conference on Saturday afternoon.

Shots launched final stage of siege

It was a careful mission which unfolded on Friday night.  A flurry of about 30 shots rang out over Napier at about 5pm Friday, but it wasn't gunfire.

"Yesterday afternoon we deployed gas into the house, gas cartridges, not designed to cause injury but to discharge gas," says Hoyle.

It allowed the police to retrieve the body of Senior Constable Len Snee.

Then into a cold night, exhausted police officers continued their siege.

A thunder clap of sound was heard at 3am Saturday and again at 5am, a police team setting off explosives to gain a better view of Molenaar's house.

As dawn broke, the police presence intensified. Then at midday, the body was found in the master bedroom of his house. Police are not confirming whether Molenaar took his own life.

"I'm unable to comment on how the deceased died, or when he died. Those are both questions for the pathologist and the coroner, who will determine ultimately the cause of death," says Hoyle.

An emotional friend of Molenaar, Tracey Kahaki, believes he was desperate.

"Well maybe 'because cops aren't gonna take me I'll take myself.'  I don't know.  He would've been pretty angry," says Kahaki.

The victims

The body of Len Snee is yet to be released to his family.

Three other men were also shot and wounded, allegedly by Molenaar. Senior Constable Bruce Miller is Hawke's Bay Hospital, along with Constable Grant Diver and another man who knew Molenaar.

Miller and the injured civilian are reported to be in stable condition but still in intensive care, while Diver is recovering in a general ward.

Residents await all-clear

Back at Chaucer Road, locals will have to wait sometime before it's safe to return home.

On Friday night, 95 adults and 16 children, including families, were accommodated in Napier hotels and motels, according to Napier Civil Defence.

"Police have located explosives at the house," says Hoyle.

Explosives experts have been combing the house, disarming devices as they found them.

Police only fired two shots since the cordons went up and they were both on Thursday morning after the officers and civilian were wounded, Hoyle says.
 
All other shots fired since then had come from Molenaar, police say.

Hoyle says coronial and homicide inquiries will begin, as well as an investigation into the police operation, taking in the initial visit to the Molenaar house on a cannabis bust.

"It's a long time to be stuck in a house, in a three bedroom house. But you just have to, you know, not really think about it," says Vincent Honan a neighbour of Molenaar.

But events over the past past few days will not be easy to forget.

Were you near the siege? Upload your footage  or send it to news@tvnz.co.nz .

An account has been set up for the families of the police officers involved in the Napier shooting. If you wish to give donations to the families of the victims, the details of the bank account to use are as follows:
Bank: Westpac
Account No: 03-0698-0544551-000
Account Name: Police Casualty Donation Account

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