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French hitchhiker 'angry at lover, not NZ'

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4 days ago Cleo Fraser

Image for representational purposes. © Getty Images Image for representational purposes. A French hitchhiker attacked road signs in the South Island because he was angry with his ex-lover, not because New Zealanders wouldn't give him a lift, locals say.

Cedric Claude Rene Rault-Verpre, 27, was arrested on Monday over claims he vandalised signs on State Highway 6 at Punakaiki, a tourist hot spot on the West Coast.

When he appeared in Greymouth District Court the following day charged with wilful damage he told the court he had spent four days on the side of the road trying to hitch a lift.

Outside court Rault-Verpre said New Zealand should be renamed "Nazi Zealand".

Several media outlets have reported that locals believed the man had attacked the signs - including one that read "Welcome to Punakaiki" - because he was frustrated at not getting a lift.

However, local man Neil Mouat, who alerted police to the man, said he didn't believe Rault-Verpre was a genuine hitch-hiker and believed there was more to the story as he was acting "strangely".

Mr Mouat said he contacted authorities over safety concerns because the man had been laying on the road on a blind corner on Monday.

The day earlier Mr Mouat said locals had spotted him "flipping the bird" to passing motorists and being rude to a Department of Conservation ranger.

Mr Mouat said the man had only been in the area for two days, not four, and that he was told the man was having a "hissy fit" as he was having difficulties with his ex-girlfriend.

"He didn't appear to know what he was doing," he told NZ Newswire on Tuesday.

"He's someone who has a pretty large degree of entitlement.

"He's not putting France's best face forward."

It is understood the owner of the signs, Fulton Hogan, is seeking $3000 in reparations.

Rault-Verpre is due to appear in Christchurch District Court on Friday, however it isn't yet known whether he plans to hitchhike or catch the bus.

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