Police urge Northland locals against vigilante justice

Police are urging Northland locals to let them do their job as a vigilante response to a recent attack on an elderly woman gains traction online.

Last week two women in their early 20s approached a rural property asking for fuel before attacking the 92-year-old woman in her home.

Now locals are threatening payback.

On the streets of Kawakawa, emotions are raw.

"The general feeling around town is that they should be put in stocks and left to the public," one local told Newshub.

"The law says don't take it into your own hands, but they will be very sorry people to hurt one of our own," says another.

"There's a lot of people who would like to go vigilante-style and catch them or hurt them."

The anger and threats heard on the main street are echoed by many more online.

Posts on the community's Facebook page call for locals to "get rid of the offenders quietly" and not to waste money on prison.

Another post, suggesting it was time for "some behind the wood shed treatment", received over 250 likes of support.

Social media consultant Jess Moloney says online 'social justice' is becoming more common - especially in New Zealand.

"It's this real mob mass mentality of 'something terrible has happened', no doubt about that, and people taking the law into their own hands and wanting revenge without it actually happening within the confines of court and law."

No arrests have been made yet, but locals have named and shamed two women they believe to be the offenders online.

One Facebook user wrote directly to them, threatening: "I'll make you feel how that poor nanny felt."

"You're actually running the risk of defaming that person if they're not found guilty," says Ms Moloney.

"The other thing of course is it interferes with prosecutions because it actually hampers police and the courts."

Police say they understand the incident has upset the public, but an investigation is underway and the community shouldn't take matters into their own hands.

As for naming the pair involved, police strongly advise anyone against this and urge the public to share any information they have with police - rather than the internet.

Locals seem unconvinced.

"I'd love to meet them in a dark alley," says one.

"Eye for an eye, I'd be first in line," says another.

The elderly woman has since been released from hospital and is getting support from her family.

Police are now hoping the public can also be supportive of their investigation by staying offline and out of trouble.


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