12 Nov 2014

Exclusive: Smith tells why he fled

1:02 pm on 12 November 2014

In an exclusive statement to Radio New Zealand News, convicted murderer and sex offender Phillip Smith said he decided to flee overseas after the result of his latest parole hearing and no-one helped him escape.

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

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

He had been on 72-hour release from Spring Hill prison in Waikato when he absconded and flew to Chile, and on to Brazil.

Smith said he left New Zealand to escape the "vigilante justice system". He was confident he could leave the country after he conducted criminal background checks on his legal name and found there was no link to his criminal record.

Responding to emailed questions, he would not confirm whether he was still in Brazil as New Zealand authorities believe, but said he was in a country from where he knew it would be difficult to be extradited.

New Zealand police said yesterday a New Zealand police officer would go to Brazil to join in the hunt for him.

More on this story

Smith was jailed in 1996 for murder, aggravated robbery, sexual violation, indecent assault on a boy and kidnapping.

He had stabbed to death a man in Wellington whose son he had been sexually abusing. Smith had tracked the family from the Wairarapa, where he was facing sex charges, to the Wellington suburb of Johnsonville where they were living in a supposedly safe house.

The case has embroiled several New Zealand Government agencies in intense controversy and recrimination.

Phillip Smith's full statement:

Why did you leave New Zealand?

In broad terms I left New Zealand to escape the vigilante justice system that operates there. There are a number of other reasons however, and these will be outlined in my media statement to be released in due course.

How long have you been planning this and how did you fund it?

I made a definite decision to leave the country after the outcome of my most recent parole hearing, and the advice that I received subsequent to it in terms of my prospects for parole. More detail about this will be revealed in my full media statement.

I have bachelor of accountancy and a bachelor of business studies with a finance major. I have used these skills to make money in various ways. Some of that money was on hand to fund my escape.

How hard was it to be able to achieve this?

It was moderately hard and took longer than I would have liked.

How surprised were you at being able to get away from New Zealand without being picked up at the airport?

I had conducted criminal background checks on my legal name and knew that there was no link to my criminal record. With that confirmed I was able to have a high degree of confidence that I would be able to leave the country.

My only anxiety was that somebody that knew me might happen to be at the airport at the same time to identify me.

Why did you choose Brazil?

I cannot at this point confirm that I have chosen Brazil or another country. What I will say however is that I conducted some research and found that New Zealand would have considerable difficulty in extraditing me back, even if my location did become compromised. My legal advice confirms the same. [This advice was not from my current lawyer]

It is thus highly unlikely that I will be returned to New Zealand under the national law of my host country, and attempts to do so will involve lengthy legal process. It is not just a matter of finding me and then the New Zealand Police coming to pick me up. The correct legal process must be followed.

Do you expect to stay in Brazil indefinitely?

I will remain in my host country indefinitely.

Who helped you to get away?

I could never afford to involve anybody else in my plan for fear of the consequences for them, so I can honesty say that the only person in the world that knew I was leaving the country on 06 November was me.

In terms of how I achieved what I did without any help, that might have to wait for another day.

Would you ever return to New Zealand?


Is there anything else you would like to say?

A comprehensive media statement, outlining in detail my reasons for escape, including an apology to my victims will be released in due course.

Read the 31 March 2014 Parole Board decision on Phillip John Smith

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