10 Dec 2014

Smith claims warder helped in escape

6:21 pm on 10 December 2014

Convicted murderer and sex offender Phillip Smith is accusing a prison officer of helping him get a passport and escape to South America.

Phillip Smith this morning, left, and pictured at Auckland airport as he escaped the country last month.

Phillip Smith in court on 9 December, left, and pictured at Auckland airport as he escaped the country last month. Photo: RNZ / POLICE

Smith, who is being held at Auckland Prison in Paremoremo, made the claims in a statement through his lawyer, Tony Ellis.

Smith left New Zealand on 6 November, flying to Chile, then on to Brazil, and was detained in Rio de Janeiro on 13 November.

At the time was serving a life sentence, having been convicted in 1996 of murdering the father of a boy he had sexually assaulted. He was also convicted of kidnapping and several other charges.

Today he said a corrections officer approached him in 2011 and offered him movies on a USB stick.

He was then given a smartphone, and the officer would let him know when searches were going on so he could hide it.

Smith claimed it was that officer who got him a passport form and photo - and that it was also him who suggested he flee to South America.

Mr Ellis told Checkpoint that Smith says the officer suggested he flee.

"And then he said that the prison officer said 'you should consider escaping to South America, as many of the Nazis did following the Second World War'.

"The officer provided him with a passport application, printed from the internet, which he completed, gave to the officer for posting," Dr Ellis said.

"He said also that the officer assisted him with passport photographs."

Smith had paid the officer $7000, and was happy to discuss the matter with the police, Dr Ellis said.

"The police can investigate the truth of the allegation. He appears to me to have sufficient information to show that what he's saying is totally credible."

The information Smith had on the officer was unique and would easily identify him, he said.

Unsubstantiated allegations

Corrections Department Regional Commissioner, Northern Region, Jeanette Burns said Smith's allegations were unsubstantiated and incomplete and had been referred to the police.

"They can then form part of the ongoing investigation into his departure from New Zealand during a temporary release while under the supervision of his sponsor," she said.

"These claims could also have an impact on the current court case in which he is facing charges.

"The allegations may turn out to be serious but until they're properly investigated and tested in court they remain just that, allegations."

Corrections could not comment further until the legal process had run its course, and a ministerial investigation into his escape was completed, Ms Burns said.

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