Christchurch hit-and-run: Witnesses express shock while police hunt for man

11:50 am on 8 August 2019

The police and the Armed Offenders Squad are executing a number of search warrants throughout Christchurch this morning after a hit-and-run incident yesterday.

Police on Hoani Street in Papanui, Christchurch.

Police on Hoani Street in Papanui, Christchurch. Photo: RNZ/Katie Todd

A pedestrian was killed when he was struck by a van fleeing from the police in the eastern suburb of New Brighton yesterday afternoon. Witnesses to the chase yesterday are still in shock.

Police said the chase began shortly after 2pm after a vehicle of interest carrying three passengers failed to stop.

When the pursuit became to risky to continue, police ceased their chase and soon located the car and arrested two of the passengers.

The third passenger, who police have named as 21-year-old Liam Strickland, fled, stealing a nearby van before ramming a police dog vehicle. Police are now searching addresses in the city to apprehend him.

Strickland continued his getaway through New Brighton's busy shopping area where he struck a homeless man who was crossing the road on Hawke Street.

Neighbouring resident Sam Lyons was sitting on the couch when the drama unfolded.

She said she heard the horrific noise when the van collided with the man.

"I saw quite a few cops cars chasing something down one end of Shore Avenue, then I saw them fly back up.

"I heard the person get hit from inside my home, and I got up expecting to see a car accident or something and I saw the person on the road."

Liam Strickland

Photo: NZ Police

Another resident who lived nearby, Jeff, who did not want to share his surname, said he spoke to a witness who saw the hit and run unfold.

"The guy who lives over in the car park, he jumped out in front of the van that they stole to get away.

"[Strickland] went straight through the roundabout and he was in the middle of the road waving, stop."

The van was being used by flooring consultant Renee Elizabeth, who had parked it and left the keys inside the vehicle before entering a building she had been working in. She told Morning Report she had been struggling with the thought the man wouldn't have died if the keys hadn't been in the van.

She said when she initially saw the man enter the van she thought it was her boss, but was shocked when she realised it wasn't. That shock turned to horror when the homeless bystander tried to stop the vehicle and was run over.

"I walked up to where the man was hit. I was running over to him and someone was already there doing CPR. I turned around to speak to a bystander and when I turned back around the white sheets were coming out," she said.

"It was one of those moments were you have to walk away before you see too much, the sort of moment where you are just frozen and processing the thought that your work van has just been stolen... I just feel for the man who tried to stop the van."

New Brighton worker Suresh Babu said he saw paramedics unsuccessfully give the man CPR.

"I was just waiting there and watching what [the emergency services were] doing. I couldn't see properly but by the time I go there, there were ambulances and a fire engine that came and they they, they brought a big cloth they covered [the body]."

New Brighton hit and run, Christchurch

The scene of the hit-and-run incident in Christchurch yesterday. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Community advocate Tina Dockerty was distraught when she learned that a member of the New Brighton homeless community was killed by the fleeing driver.

Ms Dockerty regularly works with the homeless and said those people living on the streets are everybody's whānau.

"I don't want people to look at us and go, 'Oh, it's just another homeless person, he was a nothing, he was a nobody'.

"Because you know what? He's somebody, he's somebody's family and he's our family."

Ms Dockerty will now shift her attention toward finding the best way to commemorate the victim's life.

Sadly, she said honouring those who had been lost to the streets is a process she is all too familiar with.

"This man needs to be remembered and we're going to put our that thinking caps on and remember him with a memorial service.

"We just had a memorial service a few months back. We had one 17 year old lose his life to the streets."

The police are looking for any information as to the whereabouts of Liam Strickland.

A police spokesperson said the 21-year-old is 182cm tall and has tattoos on his forehead and right cheek.

Police warn that Strickland is considered dangerous and should not be approached.

Anyone with information is urged to call 111 immediately.