The mother of a wanted man believed to be holding a 15-year-old girl against her will has spoken out tonight, saying reports she is in harm's way are wrong.
Doris Ratana has spoken exclusively to 3 News and says LA Tukerangi had initially gone to her place to visit her younger son.
She says her older son, career criminal Dean Whakatau, wanted to help LA and she wanted to be around him.
"I offered to take her home … I made her cry because I asked her to go home. She didn't want me to take her home. She wanted to go home with Dean. She was sitting in his car."
She says they were happy when they left two weeks ago, but on Saturday the 15-year-old contacted family on Facebook claiming she was being held hostage by the 36-year-old.
"Well, I wouldn't come out either after what they've said, brought up his past. That photo they've got, he's done time for that – those charges that he's done.
"And it's the same thing – I don't believe he'll harm her; if anything he's looked after her. He's looking after her. That's what I believe. And I believe he won't come out because of what the media have said about him now."
Ms Ratana says her son needs to end the ordeal and hand himself into the police.
Earlier today a Toyota Corolla became a vehicle of interest for police.
It is believed the pair were in Rotorua on Sunday, with information indicating they were in a 1993 Corolla with the number plate SG1810.
The vehicle is described as champagne brown-coloured, possibly having a dent in a door and one or more grey primer patches on the paintwork.
Detective Senior Sergeant Zane Smith says police have had an "overwhelming response" from the public reporting potential sightings.
"This is heartwarming," he says. "However, despite that response, and the significant media and social media coverage, neither Dean nor LA have made contact and we have no confirmed sighting of them since Sunday evening."
LA's family made an emotional plea for her return yesterday.
"Bring her home," mother Marie Tukerangi told 3 News. "I just want to know if she's safe."
Police are urging anyone with information about the matter to call Rotorua police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.