A devout Israeli tourist aboard the Interisland ferry Kaitaki sparked a bomb scare and police armed offenders' alert today after the ship's captain spotted boxes and what looked like wires taped to the man.
"One individual had two boxes attached, one box taped to his leg and one box seemingly taped to his forehead," Kiwirail spokesman Kevin Ramshaw told NZPA.
Jewish websites describe a traditional prayer ritual where a small black leather box called a "tefillin" containing verses from the bible is taped to the arm and forehead.
"These may well have been part of religious observance, but to people who are involved in the travel business, there were what seemed to be wires attached to them."
Mr Ramshaw said the captain then followed normal procedure by notifying police of his suspicions, sparking an armed offenders' alert in Picton. The crew then spent a nervous three hours closely observing the man as they sailed the Cook Strait, to avoid mass panic.