Typically, they described him as “dangerous” and warned the public not to approach him. This always raises red flags for me as I have had many experiences with hyped up cops hunting a fugitive they consider “dangerous”.
So, I started banging a few drums to see if I could track James down and talk him into giving himself up. This ultimately bore fruit and I received a phone call from the fugitive late one night. He would not tell me where he was and was at first most reluctant to heed my advice to surrender.
Then his phone went dead. I gathered he was in some very remote location well off the grid.
I must have planted a seed because he phoned me back the next night and without any further persuasion said he had talked things over with his dad Ian, other family members and was prepared to surrender. Top marks, it takes guts to give up your freedom and walk into a prison cell which he knew was inevitable as he would not be getting bail.
The rest is history, it made headlines around the World, CNN, The New York Times (considered the World’s most famous newspaper), the BBC, Unilad (which I understand has 40 million viewers) among others.
I’ll quote from the New York Times as they got it pretty much spot on:
A New Zealand Fugitive Wanted to Turn Himself In. So He Hired a Helicopter.
James Matthew Bryant spent weeks on the run, doing yoga in the middle of the forest and plotting his next move. Then his face appeared on a TV crime show.
May 28, 2021
AUCKLAND, New Zealand — For many, it would be a welcome getaway: a week’s retreat in a log cabin deep in the New Zealand wilderness, followed by a scenic helicopter ride, a platter of oysters and a bottle of Champagne.
For James Matthew Bryant, 32, a fugitive from the New Zealand authorities, the eight days he spent at a privately owned, open-access hunter’s hut in the remote Waianakarua Scenic Reserve constituted a literal getaway.
Since April, Mr. Bryant had been on the run on charges of wounding with reckless disregard, possession of a knife, three counts of harmful digital communications and failing to appear in court. But he ended his fugitive status in dramatic fashion on Thursday, when he chartered a helicopter to turn himself in to the police, making him something of a media sensation in New Zealand.
Mr. Bryant had been a fugitive for about three weeks wandering in the South Island before he appeared as a wanted criminal on an evening news crime show, “Police Ten 7.” Somehow he heard that an informant had told the police of his whereabouts, and that the show had described him as dangerous. He doubled down on his flight, walking for two days until he reached the hut in the forest. (The hut is free. Anyone can occupy it.) There, he passed his time doing yoga, he later told reporters, and considered his next move.
Finally, fearing a potential showdown with the police, and thinking of the possible repercussions for his young daughter, Mr. Bryant called Arthur Taylor, a former career criminal and an advocate for prisoners’ rights who is well-known to the New Zealand authorities. Mr. Bryant once helped him create a website.
The local news media reported that Mr. Bryant’s alleged crimes involved a violent argument between roommates that ended in cuts to a person’s head. Mr. Bryant faces up to five years if convicted of the charges. Mr. Taylor said by phone on Friday that he had been motivated to do right by the victims of Mr. Bryant’s crimes, who he said had been “quite terrified,” and who had spent a week away from home following the incident.
As New Zealand/Aotearoa hardly ever even appears in the New York Times this was a major coup. But I can’t say the same about the NZ media, apart from Stuff and our local Otago Daily Times, who failed to grasp the significance of the story and how it would resound with the general public.
This is where James was holed up, Staircase Hut near Mt Misery in Otago:
Imagine if the Police had tracked him down (although they said on 10/7” numerous enquiries have failed to locate James” so weren’t making much headway). They would probably have sent the Armed Offender Squad in there and who knows what would have happened?
Me, I was just glad that everyone came home in one piece, and it all ended well.
Oh, I thought the least James deserved for agreeing to surrender was a slap-up meal before he went off to eat the crap that masquerades as food in our prisons so put on 3 dozen oysters and a large bottle of Moet Chandon champagne for him. He managed to get through all but 5 of the oysters and the whole bottle of champagne before I escorted him to Dunedin Central Police Station to hand himself all in.
Arthur Taylor is TDBs prisoner rights blogger.