13 Nov 2014

Brazilian woman scared Smith will seek revenge

5:29 pm on 13 November 2014

The woman who spotted fugitive murderer Phillip Smith at a backpackers' hostel in Rio de Janiero is too scared to be identified because she fears he may one day seek revenge.

Smith was detained at a backpackers hostel in the Rio de Janeiro neighbourhood of Santa Teresa about 2am NZ time.

Radio New Zealand News has acquired video of the arrest.

Authorities had received a tip-off from someone who recognised the 40-year-old from media reports.

Reporter Alexandre Tortoriello said a woman spotted Smith walking into a backpackers' hostel in Rio de Janeiro and tipped off police. She now feared for her safety.

"She was afraid of him getting ... released. If she was responsible for putting him back into jail, she's afraid of him taking revenge."

The woman was a local person who had seen Smith on TV, he said.

Correspondent Taylor Barnes, in Rio de Janeiro, attended a police conference and told Radio New Zealand Smith was to be held in Ary Franco prison under a 90-day order.

The next step would up to a Brazilian judge, she said, although no one had expressed doubt over whether he would be sent back to New Zealand.

"Despite the fact that New Zealand and Brazil do not have a formal extradition treaty Brazil will still indeed extradite foreign criminals to countries with whom they don't have a treaty when it's requested and a judge approves it," she said.

"Now his fate is up to a Brazilian judge to determine when he will go back to New Zealand, and for the time being he will be in jail in Rio."

Cidade Maravilhosa Hostel, in Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, where Phillip John Smith was staying.

Cidade Maravilhosa Hostel, in Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro. Photo: SUPPLIED

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said Smith's return was still being worked through and police were expected to release more information this afternoon.

Smith left the country a week ago while on a 72-hour release from prison. Using a passport issued under his legal name of Traynor, he flew first to Chile, then on to Brazil.

He was jailed in 1996 for stabbing to death the father of a boy he had been convicted of sexually assaulting.

The sister of the man killed by Smith and aunt of the boy he abused, Lynda, said her family was ecstatic and relieved Smith had been captured.

"Very grateful they've actually found him. We didn't really think they were going to find him, so obviously the family is very relieved.

"Let's hope he stays in custody this time."

Lynda said she had spoken with her nephew this morning and said he was very happy and excited Smith has been caught as he just wants to get on with his life.

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

Deportation likely, lawyer says

His lawyer in New Zealand, Tony Ellis, expected the most probable outcome would be Smith's deportation from Brazil on the grounds that his passport has been cancelled, which would be a much faster process than any formal deportation action.

He said Smith's mental state may be affected and he may be a danger to himself.

"He has been sentenced to life imprisonment on his murder charge ... Plainly he's a risk of escaping so he's going to be held in maximum security, so I wouldn't be surprised if another 20 years passed before he had any realistic prospects of being released again and what that will do to his psyche I just don't know."

Corrections Department chief executive Ray Smith told Morning Report Smith was likely to be bought back to New Zealand soon, either through extradition or deportation.

Mr Smith said the escape adds to Smith's already serious offending.

"He's already on a life sentence so he can only be released by the Parole Board and what he has done here has undermined the confidence that people would have that he could re-integrate into the community so I think the Parole Board will be looking very hard at that."

Before his capture, Smith said in a statement to Radio New Zealand he believed New Zealand would have considerable difficulty extraditing him.

New Zealand police have been looking into Smith's banking and business records and yesterday searched a safety deposit box in Auckland as they work to build a picture of how he might have financed his flight to South America.

As he left the country the convicted murderer declared he was carrying $10,215.

Smith was self-employed while in prison as a director of an import-export company. Changes were made to the Corrections Act to tighten controls on self-employment while in prison, which came into effect in June last year, and prisoners must now declare any self-employment activities. Those activities also had to be approved by a prison manager.

Smith stopped working for the company after the changes were made, the spokesperson said. He remained a shareholder but the company was struck off the Companies Register in November 2013.

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