Missing South Auckland girl LA Tukerangi and her alleged captor have been found this morning.
LA, 15, was found with 36-year-old Dean Whakatau in eastern Bay of Plenty. They had been missing for over two weeks.
LA’s parents started to get worried about her after she sent a message saying that she was being kidnapped. Dean has faced rape and kidnapping charges in the past, and he was just released from jail in June.
The Tukerangi family said in an earlier statement that LA was forced into Dean’s car or taken away with him. “She stayed with him for a couple of weeks saying that she was fine, until Saturday just gone [when] she got in contact with us and said she was desperate for her life,” they added.
A relative of Whakatau said that both LA and Dean are OK, and claimed that Dean only found out that he was wanted after he turned on the TV to watch the news. Dean then contacted LA’s relatives to inform them that the kidnapping allegations are not true.
Dani Whakatau, Dean’s sister, said that she is pleased that the two have been found. “I’m happy that she can go home to her family – they have been worried as,” she said.
“My brother, I feel for him and I know he’s done the wrong thing by being with her, but it’s good that they both handed themselves in together,” she said. “We’re just happy that they’re both found, and now everyone can find out the truth and what really happened, and return her back to her family.”
Dani Whakatau earlier told reporters that Dean and LA are in a relationship. LA’s family, however, denies this.
Dean Whakatau is in police custody. It is not yet confirmed if the case will be treated as a kidnapping.
No further information has been provided by police. “Police wish to thank the public for their considerable support in this matter,” they said in a statement.
A media briefing will take place at around 3pm today.