Saturday, November 27

Couple named who mocked Auckland blockade to travel to Wānaka

The son of a judge and his lawyer partner are the couple who, according to police, broke the lockdown rules by traveling to a holiday home in Wānaka from Auckland.

18072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King.  Wellington Superior Court.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

RNZ can now reveal that they are William Willis, a 35-year-old equestrian from Karaka, and his partner Hannah Rawnsley, a 26-year-old lawyer from Pukekohe.

Police said the couple crossed the Alert Level 4 border from Auckland using essential waivers for workers and drove to Hamilton Airport on Thursday.

They took a commercial flight to Queenstown via Wellington, rented a vehicle and headed to Wānaka.

Police said they were notified via the online Covid-19 compliance reporting tool and found the couple on Saturday afternoon.

William Willis is the son of District Court Judge Mary-Beth Sharp.

In a statement issued by their lawyer Rachael Reed QC, the couple said that the decision to travel to Wānaka was “completely irresponsible and inexcusable.”

“We deeply regret our actions and would like to fully apologize to the Wanaka community, and to all the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, for what we did.”

The couple said they both tested negative for Covid-19 prior to traveling and upon their return to Auckland.

They said they were not close contacts of a positive case and had not visited any places of interest.

“We initially sought name removal after receiving death threats and had a genuine fear for our safety. However, we remain committed to taking responsibility for our actions and will not seek further name removal.”

“We understand that strict compliance is required to eliminate Covid-19 from our country.

“We have disappointed everyone with our actions and we sincerely apologize.”

The duo were initially granted provisional name removal after Willis’s attorney argued that social media users cannot be trusted to follow no-post orders.

An urgent teleconference hearing was held on Monday night, during which Rachael Reed QC introduced that the couple should keep their names secret, as social media users, bloggers and bloggers cannot be expected to Citizen journalists follow the suppression orders as the mainstream media would.

In a decision published Tuesday, Judge Davidson granted the couple provisional name suppression and prohibited the release of other identifying details, including Judge Sharp’s occupation.

This allowed time for the couple and Judge Sharp to consider applying to Superior Court for nonpublication orders before formal charges were filed.

Police prosecutor Ned Fletcher noted that there could be a delay in filing charges or the couple’s first appearance in court due to Auckland’s alert level four restrictions.

No charges have yet been brought against the couple.

If filed, the charges would allege violations of the Covid-19 Public Health Response Order.

In a statement issued in a personal capacity, Willis’s mother, Mary-Beth Sharp, said she was embarrassed by the couple’s actions.

“Like the rest of New Zealand, I was horrified to learn of the actions of my son William and his partner over the weekend.

“Besides, I was and am very embarrassed,” she said.

“If I had known of their intentions, which of course I did not know, I would have told them not to act so thoughtlessly and selfishly. I do not approve of their conduct.”

Sharp said he supported the couple’s decision not to pursue the name suppression any further.

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