Wellington Police have cordoned off the northern tip of the Miramar Peninsula in the hunt for prisoner John Frederick Ericson who escaped from a Wellington Prison work party some time after 11am today.
Armed police have joined the hunt for Ericson, aged 45 years, as a precautionary measure along with a helicopter, police dogs, the police maritime unit, CIB and frontline patrols.
Detective Senior Sergeant Paul Borrell, Wellington CIB, said the armed response is a precautionary measure in the hunt for Ericson, who was convicted of murder in the Christchurch High Court in April 2000.
"There is nothing to indicate he is armed but we can't afford to take any risks," he said. "We have roadblocks in place sealing off the northern end of the Peninsula and we're asking everyone to keep an eye out and report immediately any suspicious behaviour.
"Our message is if people see anyone that fits the description, or notice anything suspicious, then contact us.
"We're putting a big concentration into that northern end in our attempts to flush him out. We can't rule out the possibility he has already left the area but we need to make as detailed a search as possible. As soon as that search is completed we'll pull the roadblocks out.
"We want him caught as soon as possible."
Ericson disappeared from a work party outside the prison late this morning. When last seen he was wearing prison issue grey trackpants, stencilled with the letters WRP on the side, a grey sweatshirt top and black work boots. He also had a black jersey with him.
Seven roadblocks are currently at: Scorching Bay north of the Chocolate Fish Cafe, parts of Nevay and Darlington Roads, Fortification Road, Mapuia Road and the intersection of Akaroa Drive, and the carpark at the southern end of Shelly Bay.
Police are also checking out his links to Blenheim, the Hutt Valley and Auckland.