11 Nov 2014

Police talk to pair over Smith's escape

8:17 pm on 11 November 2014

Police Commissioner Mike Bush says anyone who helped Phillip John Smith flee the country will face the full force of the law.

The fugitive fled last week, using a passport he obtained last year under his birth name, Phillip Traynor.

Police confirmed Smith took a flight from New Zealand to Chile, before making his way to Rio de Janeiro and he was still believed to be in Brazil.

Mike Bush said they were talking to the two people who uplifted him from the prison as well as people Smith may have interacted with prior to leaving the country.

He said they would face action if it was found they broke the law.

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"That is currently part of our investigation, working to find out if and who assisted him if we identify those people, they too will be held to account."

Mike Bush said a United States-based Police Officer was on his way on to Brazil to assist with the manhunt.

Mr Bush said police knew about Phillip John Smith's birth name and were aware of his various identities when he was charged.

Mr Bush said an arrest warrant had been issued for Smith and Interpol alerts were in place for his known names.

That allowed authorities in South America and beyond to inform New Zealand authorities if he tried to cross their borders.

"The public can be assured that we will pursue all available avenues to locate Smith and return him to New Zealand," Mr Bush said.

"He needs to be held to account for his actions, particularly the distress that he has caused to his victims."

The Washington-based New Zealand Police liaison officer was travelling to Brazil to act as a direct point of contact on the ground and liaise with local law enforcement authorities.

Police were also liaising with Brazilian authorities through Interpol, and working with relevant staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"This is a priority investigation and all necessary resources are being directed to it," Mr Bush said.

Assistant Commissioner (Investigations) Malcolm Burgess said the Auckland-based inquiry team was talking to a number of people, including Smith's two sponsors and people he might have be in touch with before fleeing New Zealand.

"We've said Mr Smith is a calculated, intelligent individual who has clearly been planning his absconding for some time. The team is working to build a detailed picture of how he did this," Mr Burgess said.

CCTV footage of  Phillip Smith as he passed through Auckland Airport.

CCTV footage of Phillip Smith as he passed through Auckland Airport. Photo: NZ Police

"Detectives are talking to a number of people with relevant information."

Customs confirmed that Smith declared he had a large sum of cash when he left New Zealand.

A Customs Service spokesperson said he completed a Border Cash Report on departure from New Zealand to Chile.

He declared he was carrying $10,215 when he departed.

Police have released an image from CCTV footage of Smith as he passed through Auckland Airport on Thursday.

The Department of Corrections, Department of Internal Affairs, New Zealand Customs Service and the Ministry of Justice were working on the inquiry, as were 10 detectives.

Police wanted to hear from anyone with any information.

Meanwhile, Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said the Department of Internal Affairs had recalled Smith's passport.

Corrections suspends temporary releases from prison of prisoners

Corrections have suspended temporary releases of prisoners for at least two weeks, following the escape of Phillip John Smith.

Department chief executive Ray Smith said only in exceptional circumstances would temporary releases be allowed, and only on approval by one of four regional commissioners.

This included prisoners involved in Release to Work and those released to supervised programmes.

Mr Smith said for prisoners who had special circumstances such as a family bereavement or tangi, escorted temporary removal is still an option.

Meanwhile the Corrections chief custodial officer arrived at Spring Hill Prison today to begin the investigation into the circumstances that allowed Smith's escape.

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