6 Aug 2015

Car sighting helped find missing teen

6:22 pm on 6 August 2015

Missing teenager LA Tukerangi was found today after a member of the public spotted the car she is believed to have been travelling in with wanted man Dean Whakatau.

LA Tukerangi

LA Tukerangi Photo: NZ POLICE

Police found the 15-year-old Auckland girl in eastern Bay of Plenty today, along with Mr Whakatau.

The 36-year-old was arrested without incident and is now in police custody. At this stage, he has not been charged over the pair's disappearance. He had been released from jail in June and was being sought by the police for breaching his release orders.

The pair were located after a member of the public phoned police at 9am today reporting a possible sighting of the Toyota Corolla linked to them at an address east of Te Kaha.

Police located LA safe a short time later, as a direct result of the call.

LA was now in the care of police. A full medical assessment had been arranged but police said she did not appear to be physically injured.

The car at the centre of the search had also been located and recovered.

Dean Whakatau.

Dean Whakatau Photo: NZ POLICE

Detective Senior Sergeant Zane Smith said police were "incredibly pleased" to contact LA's family this morning with news that their daughter was safe.

"One of the first things that LA wanted to do was speak to her family by telephone, which we arranged.

"LA's family has asked us to express on their behalf that they are very happy and relieved that she has been found and they want to thank everyone who has supported them over the last few days. They are really looking forward to seeing her soon."

LA sent messages to her family on Saturday, saying she was being held against her will.

Mr Smith said, although LA had been located safe, there was still a great deal of work to do.

"At present she's in the care of the police. Her family are very keen to have her home and we're working with her family but we've asked that she be interviewed first.

"How they came to be there and why they were there will be questions we need to ask her.

"We will have specialist interviewers speak with LA in detail to piece together events over the last couple of weeks and to establish if any criminal offences have been committed.

"This work is likely to take some days and it is not appropriate for me to make further comment on this work until it is complete."

Mr Smith said he wanted to express his sincere thanks to the community for their help.

"Without the overwhelming public response over the last few days, we may not have located LA as quickly as we have."