Rebels gang member still evades capture
Patched Rebels gang member Craig Wayne Matthews' electronic monitoring bracelet was removed from his ankle the day he disappeared, police say.
Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Kirby said Matthews, 37, had fled the Wanganui/Manawatu area, but there were still no leads at this stage as to his whereabouts.
Mr Kirby would not be drawn on where Matthews could have gone, except to say he was obviously in hiding and police were certain he had not left the country.
Matthews, who was on electronic bail, didn't turn up at the Palmerston North District Court on September 21 for sentencing.
"He is obviously in hiding and is no doubt being assisted by people," Mr Kirby said.
Police were reluctant to say the electronic anklet Matthews was wearing was removed the morning he went to court.
The anklet sends a continuous signal to a monitoring unit, which connects to a control centre, which records the person's whereabouts 24 hours a day.
If the person goes beyond the monitored vicinity of the unit for any unauthorised reason, an alarm is raised and police respond.
The system does not stop a person leaving a particular area but, if they do, the electronic monitoring process shows this and police can act.
Police confirmed that Matthews' anklet was deactivated at 8.10am that day to allow him to travel to Palmerston North for his court appearance. It was to be reactivated at 5pm.
Matthews had been arrested as part of Operation Stamp, aimed at an alleged Rebels motorcycle gang methamphetamine operation, in February 2011 and was to be arraigned on methamphetamine dealing and money-laundering charges in the Palmerston North District Court that Friday, having previously accepted an 11-year sentence indication.
Mr Kirby said Matthews' escape had been a deliberate attempt to evade police and that police were now looking further afield.
Matthews' family has urged him to give himself up. He was last seen by a family member in Palmerston North 10 days ago but failed to return home to Wanganui later that day.
Mr Kirby said if anyone wanted to call him with information it would be treated in the strictest confidence. His direct line is (06) 349 0648
Central District field crime supervisor Detective Inspector Chris Bensemann said police had been speaking with members of Matthews' family and associates, but had not found him yet.
"His family have advised us that they hope Craig does the right thing and hands himself in to police as soon as possible. A warrant for his arrest was issued on Wednesday by the Palmerston North District Court for breaching bail conditions," Mr Bensemann said.
Matthews is described as New Zealand European, around 184cm tall, of medium to solid build. He has gang associates throughout the North Island and connections in Otaki, Foxton, Hamilton, Auckland, Whangarei and Kaitaia.