Couple who fled Auckland lockdown to Wānaka named

Laura James
Source: 1News

The couple who escaped from Auckland’s lockdown, and travelled to their holiday home in Wānaka can now be identified, and have apologised for letting the country down.

Wanaka, Otago, New Zealand.

William Willis, 35, and Hannah Rawnsley, 26, are yet to be officially charged for breaching a Covid-19 health order, but an interim name suppression urgently sought last night lapsed Tuesday at 7pm.

In a statement, the pair said they sought secrecy after receiving death threats, but they are committed to taking responsibility for their actions.

Willis is an equestrian and horse stud owner, and son of District Court judge Mary Beth Sharp. Rawnsley is a Pukekohe based lawyer.

Equestrian William Willis and lawyer Hannah Rawnsley.

The pair allegedly used their essential worker status to leave Auckland for Hamilton, where they caught a flight to Otago.

They claim they both received negative Covid-19 tests prior to the trip, and on return to Auckland.

They also state they were not considered contacts of any cases and had not been to any locations of interest.

1News understands Rawnsley flats with a Middlemore nurse, however it’s unclear if she’d been living there during Level 4.

“Our friends and families were not aware of our travel plans”, the pair said.

“The decision that we took to travel to Wanaka last week was completely irresponsible and inexcusable.

“We are deeply sorry for our actions and would like to unreservedly apologise to the Wanaka community, and to all the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, for what we did.”

An urgent court hearing was held last night, as the pair and Judge Sharp sought interim name suppression, represented by Rachael Reed QC.

Willis and Rawnsley said, “we had genuine fear for our safety”.

Reed argued the order should be made as, “although the mainstream media might be expected to act responsibly and await a prospective defendant’s first appearance in court rather than publish and act contemptuously, not so bloggers, social media advocates and citizen journalists”.

The court was given examples of social media posts that named and shamed the couple.

Judge Bruce Davidson, who presided over the hearing said he initially believed he “would have no power to make such orders”, for pre-charge suppression.

He made the order to allow the prospective defendants, Willis and Rawnsley, and Willis’ mother, to apply to the High Court for non-publication orders.

No application has been made, and the couple confirmed they “will not be seeking further name suppression.”

In a statement this evening, the Chief District Court Judge said that due to Willis being the son of Auckland District Court Judge Mary-Beth Sharp, any legal proceedings would be dealt with by a judge of the Wellington District Court.

Sharp also released her own personal statement acquired by the New Zealand Herald Tuesday evening, saying she was "highly embarrassed" and "appalled" by the pair's actions.

"Had I known of their intentions, which of course I did not, I would have told them not to act so thoughtlessly and selfishly. I do not condone their conduct.

"I understand that William and Hannah are no longer seeking suppression of their names. I support this decision."