NZ Herald. By Matthew Theunissen.
A $145,000 yacht has vanished and its owners fear it may have been sailed overseas.
Retired Whangarei couple Carol and Stephen Holland have owned the 14m cutter Harlech for 13 years and taken it on two trips to the South Pacific. They were planning to take out the yacht this weekend but found it had disappeared from its moorings, at Opua, south of Waitangi.
“We looked all around Opua and drove to Paihia and went to the police station there and did a big report but we've heard nothing,” Carol said. “They've been announcing it on the marine radios and on all the shipping channels but there have been no sightings at all. They've most probably gone out of New Zealand with it.”
Carol believed it was a well-planned theft by someone who knew about boats.
“There was a padlock and they would have to have turned the water and the batteries on – you have to know what you're doing before the engine will even start.
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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.
By Peter de Graaf