Police have now received two reports of possible sightings of the stolen yacht Harlech, taken from its mooring at Opua some time last week.

Senior Constable Craig Hughes, of the Auckland Police Marine Rescue Centre, said both sightings were in the Whangarei Heads area mid last week. However, the sightings had yet to be confirmed. The first report, at Woolshed Bay, was thought to be a different boat, although it had yet to be entirely ruled out.

If Harlech had been taken offshore, it was unlikely the boat thieves would have sailed first to Whangarei Harbour.

Mr Hughes said the theft of ocean-going boats was “a rare occurrence”. He had dealt with just two or three in his career, as well as the theft of a launch that someone managed to take to Australia.

The yacht disappeared around the time a fugitive couple said to be desperate to get out of the country sparked speculation they may have been behind the theft.

Police are looking for Paul James Bennett and Simone Ann Wright in relation to an alleged sex attack on a teenage girl in Auckland, while a South Island businessman has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to their arrest. He claims that the pair defrauded his helicopter company of $250,000.

Customs officials around the Pacific have been alerted.

Northern Advocate