Mother of MIQ escapee, who called police on him, apologises to public

The mother of a young man who escaped from the Novotel MIQ facility early on Thursday morning has apologised to the public for his actions and says she was saddened by the events.

The Novotel & Ibis Hotel in Ellerslie, Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS

By Indira Stewart

She also revealed it was the second time her son had breached Covid-19 protocols since testing positive.

The mum, who is being named Mele*, has spoken exclusively to 1 NEWS saying the family had been stressed and worried after herself and several other members had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week.

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The man was eventually found by police after absconding from the Novotel Ellerslie. Source: Breakfast

Mele and her two teenage daughters have been at the Holiday Inn MIQ facility since Monday, alongside her sister and nephew.

Her 75-year-old mother who was also diagnosed with Covid-19 is currently at Middlemore Hospital.

Mele’s three sons, including the 23-year-old who later escaped, were transferred to the Novotel MIQ facility on Wednesday evening after receiving a positive test result that morning.

She said upon finding out about his result, her 23-year-old son left their home immediately. She received a call from her husband who told her he had left.

“He asked me what we should do and I told him to call the police and tell them what happened because we don’t want him to go out and spread the virus to other people,” said Mele.

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By the time police arrived, their son had already returned after having left the home for about 10 minutes.

Mele said the decision to call the police was difficult but both her and her husband felt it was the right thing to do.

“Because for myself I think it is important to protect the other people in the community, because I know that my son have got the positive result,” she said.

“I needed the help from the police just to keep my son inside the house and don’t go outside to spread the virus to other people. We want to protect the community and that’s why I tell my husband to call the police to help us.”

Mele said she was disappointed and saddened to hear he had left their home, adding that prior to his positive test result he had not broken their bubble before.

When all three of her sons were transferred on Wednesday evening to Novotel, she was already worried about her 23-year-old son who seemed quiet and was not communicative.

“I called them that night and said to them to be happy and we have to support each other and then I said goodbye to them,” said Mele.

The 23-year-old son was sharing a room with his younger teenage brother, while their older brother was placed in a separate room.

“When I woke up on Thursday morning I had my breakfast and me and my daughters said their morning prayer and just after 10.30am I called my sons to check in with them,” she said.

The Ellerslie Novotel quarantine hotel in Auckland (file picture). Source: Getty

“When I called my teenage son he sounded like he just woke up and I asked him if he was ok and he said ‘I’m ok’ and then I asked him ‘where is your brother?’ and he said he was not there so I ask him to go check everywhere and check the bathroom and my son said he wasn’t there.

“Then I told him to call the reception and ask who is the right person for him to speak to because his brother is gone.”

Mele said she then called her husband back home and told him to check the sleep-out because their 23-year-old son was not at the hotel. Her husband found their son asleep in the sleep-out.

She said she called her teenage son at the Novotel facility and told him to contact reception immediately and tell them that his brother was at home asleep.

“Then I called my husband and I said 'don’t worry and be happy and the police will come and do everything'.”

Mele said both her and her husband did not regret reporting their son to the police.

“It’s hard for us parents to speak up and report our own son. We want to protect him but when we think about the community, that’s what makes us change our mind.”

According to Mele, their son told his father he “ran and walked” home in the middle of the night from the Novotel facility in Ellerslie to their home in Otahuhu.

The 23-year-old told his father he left the facility because he missed home and wanted to come back.

“To be honest I think he was stressed out and worried. I think he needed someone to support him,” said Mele.

“Someone to talk to him and explain it clearly to him and I think that the main reason he left the quarantine facility is he is stressed out.”

At 10pm Thursday, Mele said both her and her husband had not heard about the whereabouts of her son since police had taken him into custody that morning.

She only learned through the media that a man had appeared at the Auckland District Court earlier that day via video link, charged with failing to comply with a Covid-19 health order and had been transferred to the Jet Park Quarantine facility.

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Both parents are deeply concerned about him.

“I’m worried because when I saw him on TV without a t-shirt, I feel worried about his wellbeing,” said Mele.

After seeing the recent online backlash and racist comments towards the Pacific community during this current outbreak, she was afraid to hear that the media were outside their home.

“Even though we did the right thing, but when the media is at our home and then puts it up on air and everyone looks at us, we feel left behind and like we are not belonging to society, even though we did the right thing,” she said.

“I think to myself that everyone look down at us.

“I just want to apologise to all the communities that are looking at us negatively.”

In a statement, Joint Head of MIQ Brigadier Rose King said security measures were in place at all facilities but the government was doing a review into the situation to fully understand what happened and if any improvements needed to be made as a result.

It said from reviewing the CCTV footage, it had observed that Mele’s son had left his room three times between 11.40pm on 1 September and 1.04am on 2 September.

It said on the final occasion, he appeared to have left down the fire stair well and approached the fence line. After hiding in bushes as an MIQ staff member passed, he departed the facility at 1.07am.

*Mele is a not her real name.