20 Apr 2024

Man who raped Dutch tourist in Northland denied parole for eighth time

12:21 pm on 20 April 2024
Inside Paremoremo Prison

Keith Anthony McEwen was on Friday denied parole for the eighth time. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

One of Northland's most notorious criminals will spend at least another year in jail after being denied parole for the eighth time.

Keith Anthony McEwen was sentenced to preventive detention in 2007 for the abduction of a Dutch couple on their honeymoon, and the "cruel and sadistic" rape of the female tourist.

The honeymooners had been sleeping in their van at Haruru Falls, near Paihia, when McEwen and an accomplice forced their way into the vehicle, threatened the couple with a shotgun, and demanded money.

The victims were then subjected to a nightmarish ordeal as McEwen raped the woman and drove the bound couple around Northland, while he and his co-offender stopped at ATMs withdrawing money from their account.

McEwen was arrested after a major police investigation. He pleaded guilty to rape, unlawful sexual connection, kidnapping, attempted stupefaction, and aggravated robbery.

The case sent shock waves through New Zealand and the Netherlands.

On Friday McEwen appeared before the Parole Board for the eighth time since 2017, with discussions focussing on a "relapse" in July last year when McEwen failed a drugs test after taking part in a release to work programme.

The test detected the presence of methamphetamine, ecstasy and cannabis.

McEwen's counsel said one-one-one sessions with a psychologist since the positive drug test had been "very successful", and he was a "compliant, model prisoner" who had not been disruptive for more than 15 years.

He had also completed an adult sex offender course.

Board member Dr Jeremy Skipworth was concerned, however, by the positive drug test, given that McEwen was using a form of methamphetamine at the time of the offending against the Dutch tourists.

"It's disappointing that none of the previous treatment you've had, had any effect on your decision-making at that point."

Skipworth was also concerned by what he regarded as McEwen's "flippant" responses.

"It doesn't inspire confidence that you've given serious thought to what was a very serious lapse that's relevant to your risk."

McEwen said he made no excuses for his drug taking.

"I just had a weak moment, everybody was into it … I made a poor decision and I'm paying the consequences for it now."

He said he no longer posed a danger to the public.

"I don't have harm in me any more. I might be a little silly, but to [do]harm to people again, that's not in me."

The board declined parole and set a date of April 2025 for McEwen's next hearing.

Board member Paul Elenio said McEwen's one-on-one sessions with a psychologist should continue, and ordered more re-integration training given that he had failed a drugs test both times he had been put on a release to work programme.

"The board has been concerned about the rather dismissive way you've talked about the positive drugs test. We take these things very seriously," Elenio said.

During McEwen's sentencing in 2007, Justice Tony Randerson said his sexual offending was ''cruel and sadistic in the extreme''.

What should have been an exciting adventure in New Zealand for the Dutch tourists instead turned into a nightmare, he said.

"It's hard to imagine the horror you've perpetrated on this couple while they should have been enjoying their honeymoon. You've shattered their lives,'' Justice Randerson said.

At the time of the offending McEwen was not long out of prison for stealing irreplaceable jewellery, coins and relics from the Shipwreck Museum at Waitangi in 2000.

The treasure had been recovered from shipwrecks such as the Elingamite, which sank at the Three Kings Islands in 1902, by the late Kelly Tarlton.

The treasure, estimated to be worth $300,000, has never been recovered.