11 May 2009

Napier gunman's house a 'stronghold'

5:56 am on 11 May 2009

Police in Napier describe the home of gunman Jan Molenaar, at the centre of a 50-hour armed siege, as a stronghold containing many military style weapons and improvised explosives.

Forensic experts have now been allowed inside the Chaucer Road home, where the gunman's body remained on Sunday.

Detective Superintendent Rod Drew says a post mortem has been completed on Senior Constable Len Snee, who was killed by Jan Molenaar during a drugs raid on Thursday, and his body was returned to family on Sunday morning.

He says the property contained booby traps and large amounts of ammunition. Police also found many military style semi-automatic weapons, as well as improvised explosive devices, Mr Drew says.

Most of cordon lifted

Explosives experts have declared Jan Molenaar's house safe and have lifted much of the cordon around the Napier property.

Jan Molenaar, 51, was found dead about midday on Saturday at the house where he had been holed up after shooting dead Mr Snee and badly wounding three other people during a routine drugs raid on Thursday.

During the siege, as armed officers surrounded the house, more than 80 homes were placed off limits. On Sunday, the police cordon around the Chaucer Road property in the suburb of Hospital Hill was reduced to 11 houses.

An emergency centre set up at Napier Intermediate School and run by civil defence staff has closed.

Injured still in hospital

A full police funeral service will take place for Mr Snee on 13 May at the Municipal Theatre in Napier. It will be followed by a private cremation.

Community Constable Bruce Miller, 40, dog handler Senior Constable Grant Diver, 50, and resident Leonard Holmwood, 44, who suffered gunshot wounds during the drugs raid on Thursday are in Hawke's Bay Hospital.

Constable Miller and Mr Holmwood remain in a critical condition. Senior Constable Diver is in a serious but stable condition.

A spokesperson for Mr Holmwood's family says his relatives in Hawke's Bay have been at his bedside since he was injured.

The statement describes Mr Holmwood as an extremely private person, and his family has asked the media not to approach him or his family.

Police will be talking to Jan Molenaar's family and associates as they try to find out why he opened fire on police officers during the drugs raid on Thursday.

Eastern district commander Superintendent Sam Hoyle said Mr Molenaar's actions seem inexplicable and completely out of proportion to a cannabis search warrant.

Mr Hoyle said police officers who dealt with the siege had been "amazing" and had carried out some truly heroic acts, especially in the first few hours in recovering the two wounded officers.

He said those affected by the siege have shown incredible patience. Mr Hoyle said there has been incredible generosity and kindness shown by numerous people.

He said civil defence, Red Cross and the councils have all done amazing jobs.

Lessons to be learned

Police Minister Judith Collins says there are lessons to be learned from the deadly siege.

She is calling on the public to tell police if they know of people having weapons or explosives they should not own.

Ms Collins says she will make sure the officers involved in dealing with the events in Napier will be supported.

Napier mayor Barbara Arnott says Napier residents can be proud of the way they responded to the siege, and she believes the city is likely to grow stronger from the experience.

She says more than 300 people registered at the relief centre set up during the siege and staff and volunteers who ran it showed tremendous community spirit.

At a service on Sunday morning, St. Johns Cathedral dean Helen Jacobi described the week as one of trial and trauma for the city.

Many of the messages in a condolence book in the church are from police officers and members of the special tactics group.

'Huge relief'

Sam Jones, who was trapped in her home during the siege, says it is a huge relief to be reunited with family members.

"We couldn't go to the front of our house because the windows were very open and the guy could see us from the house," she says.

Ms Jones was finally able to leave her house at 3pm on Saturday.

During the siege police escorted SPCA staff as they visited properties to feed pets left behind by residents unable to return during the emergency.