Simon Baker/Photo
William Stewart

New Zealand Police Capture “Billy the Hunted One”

May 28, 2009 08:09 PM
by Rachel Balik
Fugitive William Stewart, a criminal who evaded police for 100 days and attracted a large following, has finally been arrested.

“I’ve Had a Good Run”

On May 21, New Zealand farmer Paul Bailey realized he had an intruder and knew that the infamous William Stewart was on the run in his area. However, as he told the New Zealand Herald, he never made the connection that Stewart might be the man who had invaded his shed. He simply called the police. When his dogs stopped barking and he felt the intruder was gone, Bailey went to bed.

Two miles from his house, police intercepted Stewart, or as he began calling himself, “Billy the Hunted One.” Stewart, who been on the run for 100 days, made one last effort to escape, but police had him surrounded. Stewart told them that he “had a good run,” and, according to the Telegraph, did not attempt to conceal his identity when police prepared to arrest him on charges that included violating parole and possession of marijuana. Authorities told the paper that they suspected he might actually be “relieved” to stop running. Although he had long hair and looked “unkempt,” he was clean, well-nourished and “quite chatty.”

Stewart’s Wednesday court appearance attracted onlookers who sought a glimpse of the man who had become a “folk hero.”

Police in the Canterbury district are urging farmers to learn from this incident and employ better security methods in the future; they indicated that the locals’ laxity had made it simple for Stewart to steal their supplies and vehicles, enabling him to remain on the run for a longer period.

Background: Why did New Zealand love fugitive William Stewart?

Stewart has a long criminal history that includes drug abuse, theft and battering his wife. But for some reason, his story appealed to the public at large, and they were more than happy to support his cause. After he carved the name, “Billy the Hunted One” into someone’s kitchen table after stealing a meal, he achieved a legendary status.

New Zealanders were more inclined to mock the police for their inability to catch Stewart than to feel alarmed about a dangerous criminal on the run. One man wrote a song about Stewart, another sold t-shirts with the logo “Where’s Billy,” and some students even sponsored a “National Where’s Billy Day” as a charity event.

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