Gone Fishing, a year on: 'Body in boot' tipster comes forward

8:15 am on 30 September 2019

By Amy Maas and Adam Dudding

The man who sparked the police investigation into the murder of west Auckland man Deane Fuller-Sandys says he never thought that Gail Maney was involved in the notorious "body in the boot" case, even though she received a life sentence for the killing.

Gail Maney.

Gail Maney. Photo: Jason Dorday/Stuff.

In a phone interview recorded shortly after the release of the podcast about the case, David Arnott told Stuff that he thought Maney was manipulative, and that "she was no angel". But he said his tip to the police in the late 1990s was only about Maney's co-accused Steven Stone and the stories he'd heard about a body in a boot - and that "none of my words put her in jail".

Eight years after Deane Fuller-Sandys disappeared, Police begin a murder investigation.

Eight years after Deane Fuller-Sandys disappeared, Police begin a murder investigation. Photo: STUFF

During the making of the Stuff and RNZ podcast Gone Fishing, Arnott was invited to talk about his part in the case, but didn't return calls. However, shortly after the podcast was released in June 2018 he got in touch with Stuff. Excerpts from the recording of that conversation appear in a "One Year On" bonus episode of Gone Fishing, released today.

The podcast also contains a new in-depth interview with Gail Maney - who is on life parole - and with investigator Tim McKinnel, who took on Maney's case last year.

McKinnel, a key figure in the high-profile innocence campaign that freed Teina Pora, grew interested in Maney's case after he heard Gone Fishing and grew concerned about the reliability of the prosecution case. He is now reinvestigating the case from scratch, and working with a legal team on ways to challenge Maney's conviction.

Tim McKinnell, photographed at his offices in central Auckland

Investigator Tim McKinnel Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

David Arnott did not witness first-hand any of the events described in Gone Fishing. However it was his tip to police in 1997 that set police on the path that would ultimately lead to Maney's conviction.

Arnott told police that two people - his former partner Tania Wilson and his employee Colin Maney (Gail's brother) - had each told him stories about a historical murder involving a body in a boot.

Police investigated - and concluded that the body must have been that of Deane Fuller-Sandys, who had gone missing in 1989, but had been presumed to have drowned while fishing off Auckland's west coast. They also concluded that the killer was a career criminal called Steven Stone and that Stone had done it at the request of Maney, who was angry because Fuller-Sandys had stolen some drugs off her.

Stephen Stone, at the right of the photo, with his father Gary and late mother Margaret.

Stephen Stone, right, with his father Gary and late mother Margaret. Photo: Fairfax Media

Police were then approached by another tipster who said Steven Stone had also killed a young woman called Leah Stephens around the same time in the late 1980s. The two murder investigations were wrapped together, and in the final version of events that was taken to trial, police said Leah Stephens had been killed by Stone because she'd witnessed Deane Fuller-Sandys' death a week earlier.

Police also said both killings had both taken place at Gail Maney's house in Larnoch Road, Henderson.

Maney has always denied any involvement in the death of Fuller-Sandys, saying she never even met him.

The prosecution case was heavily dependent on the testimony of four key witnesses, and since Maney's conviction in 2000 two of those witnesses have recanted, saying they were pressured by police to lie.

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