Gail Maney, the West Auckland woman who has served 15 years in jail for a murder she says she didn't commit, has been recalled to prison after allegedly breaching parole.
Investigator Tim McKinnel, who is working alongside lawyer Julie-Anne Kincade QC and others to appeal Maney's conviction, said he received a call from Maney on Wednesday morning as she was being taken back to prison.
She had been at her house when police turned up unannounced, but she was given permission to make a call. McKinnel said Maney had failed one of her Parole Board-mandated drug tests.
He said Maney "was trying to be brave, but her voice was shaking. She was trying to get her things together, knowing that in that instant her life on the outside just stopped".
A Corrections spokesperson confirmed that on Tuesday the department had applied to the Parole Board for Maney to be recalled, and she was arrested the next day.
The spokesperson said the grounds for recall were that Maney "posed an undue risk to the safety of the community and had allegedly breached a condition of her life parole". Maney will stay in custody until a final recall hearing in front of the Parole Board where it will be determined whether or not she remains in prison. That hearing date has not yet been set.
Maney was convicted of the murder of West Auckland tyre-fitter Deane Fuller-Sandys, but she has always proclaimed her innocence, saying she never even met him. An investigation into the case and her claims was the basis of the podcast Gone Fishing, produced by Stuff and RNZ.
Maney has been behind bars for 15 of the past 21 years but for the past several years had been living in the community on life parole. This means she can be recalled to prison at any time at the discretion of police or probation officers.
She was first released from prison in 2010 but was recalled in 2012 before being re-released in 2016. In 2017 she was recalled again, but only briefly.
Last year Maney said she was "always scared that if I do something wrong that I'm going to get in trouble and I could get recalled back to prison."
In an opinion piece published today, McKinnel said Maney has been subject to "punishing" parole conditions, including a curfew and being required to keep Corrections up to date with her love life.
He said for himself, Kincade and the others on the team fighting to prove Maney's innocence, there was sadness that she was back behind bars, but her arrest had provided fresh pressure for them to get their new evidence in order and file her appeal.
Deane Fuller-Sandys went missing in August 1989, and for years was presumed to have been washed off rocks while fishing on Auckland's west coast. But in 1997 police reopened the case, and eventually accused Maney of having commissioned career criminal Stephen Stone to kill Fuller-Sandys because he'd stolen some drugs from her house.
Stone and Maney were found guilty of murder at a trial in 1999, and Stone was additionally found guilty of the rape and murder of Leah Stephens, a young woman who went missing a week after Fuller-Sandys. Maney successfully appealed her conviction, but was found guilty again at a retrial in 2000.
The cases against Maney and Stone depended heavily on the accounts of four trial witnesses: two of those witnesses have recanted their evidence, and the other two received immunity from prosecution for their own involvement, in exchange for giving evidence.