IT’S mid-afternoon and on Galatea Road at Te Teko a woman is screaming.
“Help me, help,” she yells, attracting the attention of a motorist passing by who quickly realises the woman is in grave danger.
A man has her pinned on the bonnet of a car and is punching her repeatedly around the head and face.
It is clearly an emergency and the motorist, Rihi Vercoe, who’s in the area looking at property for sale, calls 111.
What happens next – or more precisely doesn’t happen next – is now the basis of a complaint to the police commissioner.
Mrs Vercoe has asked the commissioner to check out why it took multiple 111 calls and more than 30 minutes to get a police response to the incident.
“Some serious consequences, including murder of the victim could have happened,” she said.
The drama unfolded on November 29, between 3pm and 4pm.
“There was a grey car parked in front of the brown brick house, and a man beating up the screaming women.
“He had her pinned on the bonnet of the car, continually punching her head and face, and she was trying to protect herself with hands on face.
“I could not intervene because I was by myself in my car and I thought if I stopped to help the lady, the man might beat me up too.”
Two young teenagers riding a horse along the road assured Mrs Vercoe it was not their mother being assaulted but said the attack had been in progress for about 30 minutes, so she dialled 111 for the police to come and help the woman.
“I followed the voice prompt and pressed 4 for the police. The phone kept on ringing for a long time – 15 to 20 minutes and still no reply.”
Mrs Vercoe then tried calling the Kawerau station direction – no reply.
She tried 111 again – no reply.
So, she decided to drive to the Te Teko Police station, holding a cellphone to her ear in the hope a police car would come past and pull her over. “Then I would be able to ask them to go and check out the assault on Galatea Road.”
The Te Teko station was unmanned so she tried 111 again – and got an answer.
She passed on the details of the assault and with more than 20 minutes having already passed, she queried how long it might take for police to respond.
When the call taker didn’t know, Mrs Vercoe decided it might be faster to drive to the Kawerau station herself and alert police. She was driving toward the town when a fast-travelling police car with red and blue flashing lights came past, heading in the direction of Te Teko.
Finally, it was task-accomplished for Mrs Vercoe and she headed home.
But she could not get the debacle out of her mind and this week lodged a complaint about the “shockingly lacking” 111 emergency service and response time that could easily have resulted in tragedy.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has acknowledged her complaint, saying it will be assigned to a member of the authority’s case resolution team for assessment.