11 Dec 2014

Killer's escape claim investigated

2:19 pm on 11 December 2014

Police have contacted the lawyer for Phillip Smith over the convicted murderer and sex offender's claims a corrupt prison officer helped him plan his escape to Brazil, the lawyer says.

Phillip Smith

Phillip Smith Photo: RNZ / Murielle Baker

Smith was on a three-day release from Spring Hill prison in Waikato when he left New Zealand on 6 November, flying to Chile and on to Brazil. He 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.

Yesterday he said a Corrections officer approached him in 2011 and offered him movies on a USB stick.

He said he paid the officer $7000 for services, including the movies, a smartphone and help in obtaining a passport.

The officer would let him know when searches were going on so he could hide it, Smith claimed.

He also 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.

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

His lawyer, Tony Ellis, said police had contacted him today and, while he could not pass on all the details of his conversation, Smith's allegations were discussed.

"It involved where we were going from here, and it was a useful discussion and we may have the possibility of another police interview ... one day next week," Mr Ellis said.

A police spokesperson said any new information would be reviewed as it came to hand, and police intended to interview Smith.

Corrections Association head Beven Hanlon said today Smith was simply trying to get publicity and he has not heard anything to substantiate what he says.

"What we're saying is put up or shut up," Mr Hanlon said.

"If he's got a corrupt Corrections officer as he claims, nobody wants to be working with that person. Put up the evidence, lets get it done, and lets bunk them together if they're such good friends."

Mr Hanlon said it was not uncommon for a prisoner to get the personal details of a warder.

"We drive to work every day, the cars are directly outside the prison. All they need is a friend or family member to watch us, get our details and follow us home," he said.

"Details of a Corrections officer prove nothing. We get allegations made by prisoners with those sorts of details all of the time."

Mr Hanlon said it sounded like Smith was trying to get himself into the media, and he had not heard anything which substantiated his claims.

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