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The ride of their lives

8 August 2022

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The ride of their lives

Monday 8 August 2022 | Written by Chris Taylor | Published in Local, National

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The ride of their lives
The incumbent Minister of Corrective Services George “Maggie” Angene. Photo: SUPPLIED/22080735

It's every hitchhiker's nightmare, jumping into a car with a serial killer or dangerous criminal. So when well-known Kiwi talkback radio host James Daniels and his wife accepted a ride while on holiday in the Cook Islands recently they were stunned when their driver introduced himself as one of Rarotonga’s most notorious criminals.

They were even more shocked when the affable man in his 60’s disclosed what his current job happened to be, handing over his Ministry of Corrective Services business card with a smile.

Daniels regaled the light-hearted tale on air last week with fellow host of the “Simon Barnett and James Daniels Afternoons” on New Zealand’s number one talk-radio station Newstalk ZB. After spending an idyllic holiday on Aitutaki, for their last morning on Rarotonga, Daniels, 67, said he and wife Dianne decided to spend it at Avarua’s bustling Punanga Nui Saturday Market. But what happened next left Barnett aghast and in hysterics.

The story began with Daniels saying that after they missed the bus from Rarotonga International Airport the couple decided to try their hand at hitching a ride to the popular market.

“It was too far to walk and was as hot as hell … and I said come on let’s hitchhike.” Despite initial protests from Dianne they ended up kerbside. The well-travelled couple had never thumbed a ride anywhere else in the world before.

After a few cars went past a hatchback pulled up alongside the pair. “And there was a little guy about my age who looked a lot like me driving. And he says, ‘get in’.”

Daniels attempted to hand the driver $10 for the ride back to town which was waved off. They got into the backseat and the vehicle drove away.

As he does every day behind the radio mic Daniels struck up a conversation by regrettably asking, “so what do you do here?” The driver to the couple’s shock replied “well, I’ve spent 34-years in prison”.

A stunned Barnett then exclaimed on air “what, 34-years!?” At the time in the backseat Dianne was looking at her husband and Daniels said he was thinking “huh!?” Alarmed at the disclosure he asked what he’d done to be locked up for such a long time.

Daniels said the man then shared his criminal past saying he’d “done a few things”. From starting a gang there in the 70’s to stealing and attempting to burn down the government house*. “I’m already freaking! And I was sitting in this car, he’s driving along, and I was thinking was there any kidnapping on that list!?” By this time Barnett was laughing hard at Daniels’ retelling of their odd-ball hitchhiking experience.

James and Dianne Daniels on holiday in Aitutaki. Photo: SUPPLIED/22080731

The radio co-host then asked the man, “what are you doing now?” To which he astoundingly replied that he was the Minister of Corrective Services in the Cook Islands.

“He gave me his business card.”

Daniels then revealed the identity of the driver as colourful Tupapa Maraerenga MP George “Maggie” Angene.

“He proceeds to take us to the markets, and he drove straight past.” Daniels nervously said to Angene at the time “um, um, hang on…it’s back there.” Angene however said he knew a special way and drove them in the back entrance. Daniels was then surprised at all the market visitors who immediately acknowledged Angene.

“Everyone knows him. They’re all waving and saying ‘hey George’. He winds down his window and points to us.”

“What an amazing and extraordinary story,” said Barnett in response to the fascinating yarn that kicked off the brief hitchhiking talkback segment. Subsequent text responses into the station revealed how much listeners loved the story.

And as memorable as their first hitchhiking experience was, however, they’ve decided to never attempt to thumb a ride again said Daniels, but now have a great dinner travel story to share for years to come.   

*On the radio recording Daniels misheard Angene say he came out of prison in 2017 and that he had attempted to burn down government house. However, the now veteran MP was in fact paroled and released from prison over 22-years-ago for arson to the ministry of justice, post office, and telecom building centre. 

You can listen to the full audio of James Daniels’ story on Newstalk ZB’s On Demand weblink under shows – Simon Barnett and James Daniels Afternoons.

https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/simon-barnett-and-james-daniels-afternoons/audio/james-incredible-cook-islands-hitchhiking-story/