Fugitive With Devoted Web Following Taunts Cops Online

Britain had Ronnie Biggs, the U.S. had Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Australia had Ned Kelly.

New Zealand's offering to the romantic fugitive hall of fame is Billy the Hunted, a burglar and drug addict who has managed to evade capture for seven months despite the best efforts of New Zealand's finest.

William Stewart, 47, who has been on the run since breaching parole last October is a pretty unsavory character — a serial burglar who steals to feed his methamphetamine habit.

But his success at eluding police has earned him a devoted following with hundreds of fans logging into his Facebook page to follow his latest escape from the law.

Comments posted on his page such as: "Go Free Willy go" and "The cops down here couldn't catch a cold" make it pretty clear whose side his fans are on.

Wanted in connection with a series of burglaries in New Zealand's South Island Stewart first caught the public imagination when he allegedly stole dinner from a farm kitchen while on the run, and carved "thanks from Billy the Hunted One'' into the table.

Since then, although the police have come close to catching him several times, he has stayed one step ahead of them at every turn, even dodging helicopters and slipping through police cordons. When they raided the house where he had been living since December, he simply ran out the door, according to the owner of the house.

He has become so confident that he recently uploaded a new photograph of himself onto his Facebook page revealing that his long, bedraggled hair had been cut short.

His local fame is such that he has now had a song written about him entitled "Billy the Hunted" and inspired a line of T-shirts, printed with "Where's Billy?" and the crossed out names of locations he has been sighted in.

Increasingly frustrated police warn that Stewart, who is armed with two shot guns, is "no Robin Hood."

In February he threatened a police officer with an iron bar, he is believed to have stolen a number of cars while on the run, and is reported to have broken into pharmacists to feed his methamphetamine habit.

But none of that bothers his fans. One has even told him, via Facebook, that she has baked a cake for him and is leaving it out on the windowsill.

Click here to read more on this story from the Times of London.