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Police not interviewing Smith: lawyer

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 9/12/2014
Phillip Smith © TVNZ Phillip Smith

Convicted murderer and child molester Phillip Smith won't be interviewed by the police at all about charges following his escape to South America, his lawyer says.

Smith's first formal police interview since arriving back was due to take place on Tuesday afternoon.

But Smith's lawyer Tony Ellis said the police cancelled the interview and said they were no longer planning to interview him at all.

The decision was very strange as the police usually interview suspects before charging them, Mr Ellis told NZ Newswire.

Police were not available to comment.

Earlier in the day, Mr Ellis said Smith fled the country because he feared for his life.

Looking gaunt and pale with his balding head exposed, Smith appeared in Auckland District Court via video link from Auckland Prison for the first time since arriving back from Brazil.

Smith faces two charges of escaping custody and false representation in relation to obtaining his passport.

Outside court, Mr Ellis said Smith planned to plead not guilty using the defence of necessity or duress.

Both defences are unusual and require the accused to be threatened with death or serious bodily harm if they don't commit the offence.

"That element of necessity and/or duress is a past action that is not connected with anything current," Ellis told reporters.

"He [Smith] does say three other prisoners were involved with this incident and it does essentially, in the broader sense of the word, allege some form of corruption by forces of the state."

Mr Ellis couldn't say when or where the incident took place.

And Mr Ellis said Smith wouldn't be fleeing the country again as the escape was a "one-off".

Smith was safe at the moment but in the long run could be targeted by other inmates who might have a grudge against him following the tightening of temporary release conditions, Mr Ellis said.

Smith felt he was being punished by having his hair piece taken off him, and had asked not to have images of himself shown when he appeared in court on Tuesday, Mr Ellis said.

Judge John Macdonald granted an interim suppression on the Palmerston North address connected with the passport charge and the summary of facts.

Smith was remanded in custody and will reappear via video link next Tuesday for the full suppression hearing.

Smith has been locked up for 23 hours a day in Auckland Prison since arriving back from Brazil and last week ended up in the at-risk unit after he went on hunger strike.

Smith was on a 72-hour temporary release from Spring Hill Prison when he fled New Zealand on November 6 on a passport issued under his birth name Phillip Traynor.

He was arrested in Rio de Janeiro within a week and deported to New Zealand, arriving at Auckland Prison on November 29.

Smith was jailed in 1996 for at least 13 years for murdering the father of a 12-year-old Wellington boy he had been molesting while on bail on the child molestation charges.

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