Dalton Papalii posted this photo on social media of his Chevrolet Impala with the caption “My Sixty-Four”. Photo / Provided
It was a few hours after midnight on June 1 when All Blacks star Dalton Papalii pointed his car south and let loose on the South Auckland Freeway.
As he approached Takanini, he unknowingly passed a detective and a constable traveling in an unmarked police station wagon, then continued to accelerate at speeds that police would later describe as “extremely excessive”.
They started following the Blues captain and activated their headlights.
The detective in the car would later tell a senior officer that they traveled 170 km/h under lights for about 1 km and the offending car was still keeping a distance.
The driver stopped about 600 m south of the Takanini access ramp.
When officers went to speak to the driver, they identified him as Dalton Papalii.
As usual, the officers opened the ball by filing a charge for speeding beyond the 100 km/h limit.
The charge they were to bring was a Category 1 traffic offence, meaning police allegedly alleged he was driving more than 50km/h over the posted speed limit. He faces a maximum penalty of $1,000 in fines if convicted. There were no other charges.
However, as the Herald previously revealed, Papalii, 24, never had to appear in court and kept his license.
Exactly why police were forced to drop the charge against the cowardly attacker was unclear when the story first broke.
But an email obtained under the Official Information Act shows it linked to a fault in the calibration of the police car’s gear ratio.
The email, from the detective who was in the unmarked police van that arrested Papalii in the early hours, was sent to his superior outlining the circumstances of the incident.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of the detective or constable who arrested Papalii.
“Knowing that our vehicle did not have the usual speed calibration sticker under the infotainment system, we were unsure if we could proceed with a charge,” the detective wrote.
As 3 a.m. approached, he phoned the duty highway sergeant and asked how to proceed.
“He informed us that we could perform a retrospective speed calibration on our vehicle which can be done at the Auckland Motorways Metro base.”
The sergeant told the detective to pursue the court summons and notice of license suspension. They filled out the necessary forms and followed him to Papakura.
A week later, the detective telephoned one of his superiors to ask if the unmarked car had a current speed calibration certification.
“He indicated that in his year and a half with Crime Squad, he didn’t believe he had been calibrated.”
The detective then telephoned another sergeant to try to arrange for the car to have its speed calibrated.
He was told that a retrospective calibration is only possible if the vehicle has already been calibrated or if its calibration only recently expired.
The detective sought further advice from specialists in Wellington who told him there was no history of an unmarked wagon having ever had its speedo calibrated, which spelled the end of any possibility of charging Papalii.
“We decided the charge should be dropped as we could not prove that the police vehicle’s speedometer was sufficiently accurate.”
The detective then called the flanker to tell him not to attend Manukau District Court as summoned as the charge was withdrawn.
Papalii’s solicitor then phoned the detective to confirm his call was not a liquidation attempt by one of the rugby star’s associates.
“He wanted to confirm that the summons was in fact withdrawn and that it was not one of Papalii’s friends who called him.
“I reaffirmed with the attorney that the summons was withdrawn and that I would be in touch with Papalii once I had done some research to get his license reinstated.”
The Herald was unable to definitively confirm which vehicle Papalii, a well-known car enthusiast, was driving.
The detective’s email said it was a red Ford Mustang, but there is no evidence that Papalii owns that brand of vehicle.
Earlier this year, he posted a photo with a lowered red 1964 Chevrolet Impala.
He also talked about owning a 1971 Jaguar XJ6 modified with a 5.7L Chevrolet V8 engine, as well as a Toyota Hilux.
A police spokesman earlier described the speed at which the car was traveling as “extremely excessive”.
“Police can confirm that a vehicle was stopped on the Southern Freeway in the early hours of June 1 after it was allegedly traveling at extremely excessive speed.
“The driver was arrested on the side of the road and was remorseful about the situation.
“Unfortunately the police had to withdraw the case from court due to a technicality.”
A representative for Papalii has earlier confirmed that he is the subject of misconduct proceedings by NZ Rugby’s Integrity Unit.
The Herald has sought comments from NZ Rugby on the outcome of this process.
All Blacks communications manager Matt Manukia said in response: “This issue has been addressed and we have nothing further to add.”
It is understood Papalii spoke to his Blues teammates and his management group over the incident, expressing his regret and embarrassment.
Papalii was named this year’s Blues captain for the 2022 season.
He had a dream run as a skipper, leading his side to 13 games unbeaten.