Face of the day


Phillip Smith

Phillip Smith is likely to have had outside help in planning his escape to Chile while on temporary release, police say.

He may also have been planning his escape for years, authorities say.

Smith left by plane for Chile on a passport previously obtained in his birth name, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 6, the day he was temporarily released from Springhill Prison.

The passport was valid, and therefore there was no reason to stop him at the border.




1974 – Born Phillip John Traynor

Circa 1986 – Met victim’s family in Carterton.

1992-95 – Sexually abused his neighbour’s son.

1995 – Murdered the father of the boy he was abusing while on bail for extortion, and escaping police custody while on bail for earlier offending.

April 15, 1996 – Sentenced to life, with a minimum non-parole period of 13 years, for murder, sexual offences against his victim’s son, aggravated burglary of the family’s home and kidnapping of the victim’s wife and son.

April 14, 2009 – First time Smith is eligible for parole. Parole Board addresses multiple frauds committed in prison between 2006 and 2010. Investigation begins in to a business he was running behind bars and other fraudulent activity.

February 4, 2011 – Appears before Board again. The Board raises concerns about the “violent callous and manipulative aspects of his offending”.

May 3, 2011 – Appears before the Parole Board, which orders a Parole postponement of two years.

April 8, 2013 – Parole postponement lifted and parole declined. Smith begins having 12 hour temporary releases.

March 31, 2014 – Smith is denied parole again. The Parole Board identified his risk of reoffending as high, and that if it were to occur it would likely be in the form of fraud. Board recommends further temporary releases.

Thursday, November 6 – Smith is collected from prison by an approved “sponsor”, a family member. That same day he leaves the country using a passport in the name Phillip John Traynor and flies to Chile.


Smith had undertaken a number of release visits, understood to be 10, as part of his release plan. He had been due back at Springhill prison on Sunday but police were notified on Saturday that he had not turned up at his sponsor’s home, as arranged last week. There had been no warning signs on previous visits.

Police had, through Interpol, notified Chilean authorities and all avenues would be pursued to return Smith to New Zealand, police said. His victims were advised this morning of the latest developments, and were being supported by police and Victim Support.
Mr Burgess said he was confident Smith would be caught if he drew the attention of Chilean authorities but South America was “a big place” and there were no guarantees he’d be caught.

He said it was likely government agencies would discuss how to better share information to prevent a similar situation happening again. “Whether it’s a failure or a cock-up . . . those are things that hopefully the inquiry will establish.”
He said Smith was previously given six temporary releases for up to 12 hours at a time.

There were no untoward incidents during this time so Smith was able to convince the Parole Board he was “making progress”. Mr Burgess, however, said it was possible Smith planned his escape for months, even years.

Mr Lightfoot said Smith was also recently allowed to leave prison for 24 hour and eventually 72-hour periods. He fled when on the second of his 72-hour breaks.