NSW stowaway caught hiding in ship after skipping bail over alleged sexual assault

A NSW man who skipped bail over an alleged sexual assault has been found hiding in the air-conditioning vent of a bulk carrier that was destined for Malaysia.

Queensland police car (file picture). Source:

The man's elaborate escape plan began on Saturday when the carrier, which was heading for Newcastle, rescued him from a stricken yacht which was foundering in the waters off Yamba on the northern NSW coast.

Police say the 31-year-old man was taken into a cabin of the bulk carrier ship and a tow line was attached to the yacht.

As the ship entered Newcastle waters about 9pm (11pm NZT), it was discovered the tow line had snapped - with the yacht lost in the process - and the 31-year-old man was missing.

Officers from the Marine Area Command began an extensive search but couldn't find the man.

When the ship anchored at Newcastle on Monday, NSW Police and Australian Border Force officers, with the help from the dog squad, searched the bulk carrier and found the missing man hiding inside an air-conditioning vent.

Checks revealed the man was in breach of his bail over an alleged sexual assault and he was arrested and officers seized $4435 (NZD$4735) and a knife.

The Peakhurst man was taken to Newcastle Police Station, where he was charged with breach of bail.

Police will allege in court that the man had deliberately cut the tow line and planned to stowaway on the ship until it was due to depart Newcastle for Malaysia.

The man was refused bail and appeared before Newcastle Local Court on Monday and formally refused bail to appear before Sutherland Local Court today.