Fugitive Hires Helicopter to Turn Himself In After 8 Days in Hiding

The runaway spent his time in the wilderness doing yoga, and treated himself to oysters and champagne before heading to the police station.
May 31, 2021, 7:27am
helicopter
James Matthew Bryant reportedly hired a helicopter to turn himself in to police because he "wanted to come out in style." Stock photo: rbkomar, via Getty Images.

After a week doing yoga in the remote New Zealand wilderness, a wanted man paid for a helicopter to come pick him up so he could hand himself in to police.

James Matthew Bryant had been on the run for about five weeks on charges of wounding with reckless disregard, possession of a knife, three counts of harmful digital communications and failing to appear in court, the Otago Daily Times reports. 

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The 32-year-old wandered New Zealand’s South Island for weeks, eluding authorities, before learning that he had appeared on the evening news crime show Police Ten 7. The show profiles wanted suspects and asks viewers to help police search for them, and had described him as dangerous. Bryant also heard that an informant told the police of his whereabouts, according to The New York Times.

So he decided to go off-grid.

Nestled in the forested hills of Waianakarua Scenic Reserve, just north of Dunedin, is a privately owned, open-access hunter’s hut. After walking for two days, Bryant arrived at this hut and used it as his own secluded bolthole: a place where he could lay low and consider his next move. He would later reflect fondly on his time in the wilderness, telling reporters that “it was real good; I did a lot of yoga.” But after eight days alone in what he described as “the middle of nowhere,” and fearing a potentially violent showdown with police, he decided to reach out to an old acquaintance for help.

Bryant called Arthur Taylor, a former career criminal turned advocate for prisoners’ rights who is well-known to New Zealand authorities. Bryant had once designed a website for Taylor. And it was Taylor who advised Bryant to turn himself in.

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The New York Times reports that Taylor said he told Bryant: “‘Look, mate, my best advice to you is give yourself up. You might go to jail for a few years, but it’s not the end of your life.’”

Bryant allegedly called him back and said “‘Arthur, I’ve chartered a bloody helicopter.’”

Taylor later told reporters that Bryant “wanted to come out in style,” and had hired the helicopter at his own expense. He also indicated that things could have gone much worse if police had been forced to go into the wilderness and extract Bryant themselves.

“They’d have been very angry police,” Taylor said. “From having hiked all that time, they’d be armed to the teeth, anything could have happened. A very volatile situation.”

The helicopter retrieved a bearded Bryant from his hideaway hut on Thursday. After being dropped off, he was taken in a car to Taylor’s home in Dunedin, where he treated himself to some 30 Bluff oysters, a bottle of Moët & Chandon champagne and some of Taylor’s own Cognac. Then, finally, he handed himself in.

Bryant’s charges reportedly relate to a fight that’s believed to have taken place at a Dunedin home in April, during which one person suffered cuts to their head. It is understood that Bryant then failed to appear in court on April 20, while out on bail, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He faces up to five years behind bars if convicted of the charges.

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