7 Oct 2020

Gail Maney case: Prison guard says he was impersonated for 'false evidence'

7:52 am on 7 October 2020

A former Corrections officer says someone impersonated him to fabricate evidence in the case of convicted murderer Gail Maney.

Gail Maney

Gail Maney is on life parole for ordering a hit on a man but she has always maintained her innocence. Photo: Fairfax Media

The evidence was used to help quash an appeal by Maney.

Maney is on life parole for ordering a hit on West Auckland man Deane Fuller-Sandys, who was presumed drowned for a decade before his death was drawn into an elaborate police case involving two murders.

Maney's 2005 Court of Appeal bid was knocked back - partly on the grounds she may have colluded with prosecution witness Tania Wilson and 'cooked up' a story while they were in the same prison in 2000.

The Crown produced an affidavit from a police detective who said that Corrections Officer Dave Kupenga called him with a warning that the two women were in adjacent cells in Mt Eden Women's Prison.

But Kupenga told RNZ he never made the phone call and someone had either impersonated him or used his name to provide false evidence.

"I never did anything of the sort," he said. "I feel quite angry about it, that my name was even used at all and in that manner."

Corrections documents obtained by RNZ reveal Maney was "in an entirely different part of the prison" to Wilson and the two would have had "no opportunity to have any interaction".

Maney, whose case was brought back to public attention by the 2018 RNZ-Stuff podcast Gone Fishing, told RNZ the revelations were significant fresh evidence in her bid to overturn her conviction.

"They believed that Tania and I were in adjacent cells and that I had basically pressured her into changing her evidence which is very far from the truth," she said. "I was never in adjacent cells with Tania. I was never in the same wing as Tania."

Deane Fuller-Sandys.

Deane Fuller-Sandys went fishing one night in 1989 and disappeared, presumed drowned. Eight years later police said it was in fact murder. Photo: Supplied

Maney was sentenced to life in prison in 2000 for the murder of Deane Fuller-Sandys who went missing in August 1989, after setting off to go fishing at Whatipu, a rough surf beach in West Auckland. His car was found at his favourite fishing spot but his body has never been recovered.

The Crown case was that Maney had asked Stephen Stone to murder Fuller-Sandys because she was angry he had stolen a small quantity of drugs and a leather jacket from her flat in Larnoch Road, Henderson.

Working a decade after the events police linked the disappearance of sex worker Leah Stephens, who went missing from Queen Street around the same time, to the crime.

The Crown claimed Leah Stephens had witnessed the murder of Fuller-Sandys and that Stone, assisted by two other men, raped and murdered her to stop her speaking out.

A portrait of Leah Stephens, aged 20.

Leah Stephens went missing in 1989. Her body was found in Woodhill Forest in 1992. Photo: Fairfax Media

Last month RNZ revealed Stone was now appealing his convictions for rape and murder, after more than 20 years in prison.

Maney has always maintained her innocence and her 2005 appeal was based around Tania Wilson recanting the evidence she had given against Maney.

Wilson said she was pressured by police into testifying against Maney and was frightened of losing her children and being charged as an accessory if she did not make a statement supporting the police case.

But the 2005 appeal was dismissed as the judges did not believe Wilson was a credible witness and may have concocted her story with Maney when they were in adjacent cells.

They relied on an affidavit from Detective Bill Searle that said he was called by Dave Kupenga on 20 December 2000 to alert him that Wilson, who was incarcerated on another crime, had been placed next to Maney.

"At 15.23 hrs today I received a phone call from a Prison Officer Dave Kupunga (sic) who advised that the two are currently in cells next door to each other," Searle's affidavit says.

The affidavit says the prison was supposed to keep the women separate, so he filled out a security breach form.

But Kupenga said it wasn't him. "I never, ever rang the police help line. It's not something I would have done. It's not something I would have known how to do actually. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a police help line."

Tim McKinnel, an investigator working on appeals for Stone and Maney, said the information should never have made it to the Court of Appeal in 2005 because the police knew in 2004 there were doubts about their information.

"I've seen documents that make it pretty clear that the police had doubts about the provenance of the information that they say emerged in 2000," he said. "The police knew it was at least possible, if not likely, that Dave Kupenga didn't make that telephone call to police in December 2000."

In a statement the police said they stood by the affidavit from Bill Searle, who is now the Assistant Commissioner of Police.

Police could not say what steps were taken at the time to verify the prison guard's identity given this happened 20 years ago.

While Leah Stephens' remains were discovered in June 1992, the body of Deane Fuller-Sandys has never been found.

Without forensic evidence, the Crown case relied on four witnesses who were given immunity from prosecution to testify against Maney and Stone.

The two female witnesses - Wilson and another woman with name suppression - have since recanted their evidence.

The case now depends on two male witnesses, who were given immunity by the Solicitor-General for rape and murder in return for giving evidence.

The two men, who have name suppression, changed their stories multiple times on vital matters, including whether they had even heard of Fuller-Sandys, where crimes happened and who was involved.

One of the men invented a murder, in which he chased a man through a forest and hit him with a spade before he was shot dead by Stephen Stone. He only admitted it was fiction when the police found the 'victim' was still alive.

After being shown portions of each other's statements the story they finally settled on was that Stone's 'hit' on Fuller-Sandys involved Stone inviting the two men to Larnoch Road to join him and six others.

Fuller-Sandys was lured to the house and in a small, open garage, Stone shot him and then passed the gun back and forth to four other men to fire bullets into the body, in order to implicate them in the crime.

Maney said that in August 1989, she had only just met Stone and the idea that she would ask him to carry out a hit - the Crown never alleged he was paid for the killing - in a small garage crowded with 10 people was farcical.

"When the police accused me of ordering a hit I was shocked because I thought they were just playing some game because I honestly only ever thought something like that happened in a movie," she said. "It's just bizarre, it's so weird."

After carrying out his hit on Fuller-Sandys, Stone was said to have become worried that one of the multiple witnesses - Leah Stephens - might nark on him.

So five days later he took two men - the two later given immunity from prosecution - to pick her up from Queen Street where she was a sex worker.

The Crown case was the three men then took Stephens back to the same place where Fuller-Sandys was murdered - Gail Maney's house in Larnoch Road - where a small group were in the lounge drinking and listening to music.

Stone, and the two other men given immunity, took Stephens into a back room and raped her, then Stone slit her throat before ordering the two men to dump her body.

Maney said the Crown scenario was fiction and that Stone should not be in prison.

"He's been in there for 23 years now for something that never happened and for something that the police completely set up."

She said she had never wavered from her story and even though she is now out of prison she remains on life parole.

"I've got it constantly hanging over me, I can't get on with my life," she said. "My children were only young. They lost their home, their mother, they lost each other and it's like been hugely damaging for my family."

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