How Kiwi fugitive gave himself away

By Anna Leask, Alexandre Mata Tortoriello, Bruce Douglas in Rio de Janiero

‘Don’t hurt me,’ Smith says as police handcuff him at hostel

Phillip John Smith, caught yesterday in Rio de Janeiro after fleeing NZ, has been transferred this morning to another prison in Brazil.

Smith had been initially placed in the notorious Ary Franco Prison, but was transferred to Gericino Penitentiary - the largest public prison in Brazil.

Smith was arrested in Rio yesterday, a week after fleeing New Zealand while on temporary release from Spring Hill Corrections Facility in South Auckland. He was serving a life sentence for murder and other violent crimes.

It's not clear why he was moved to another jail.

IRD reveals Smith's $50k fraud

In other developments in the case, Inland Revenue also says Smith is guilty of defrauding the public of almost $50,000, Inland Revenue says.

The money he stole, while he was behind bars, remains missing.

The department successfully prosecuted Smith in July 2012 of 12 charges of obtaining by deception involving $47,565 worth of refunds, a spokeswoman said today.

Smith was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment and ordered to pay reparation of $50 per week.

"Inland Revenue undertook a large volume of bank tracing in order to identify where the refunds went but the funds were not able to be recovered."

Smith arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday morning with a large suitcase and a backpack, checked into a youth hostel as James Paul Andrews from Brisbane and joked about finding himself a Brazilian girlfriend.

He paid $40 for two nights in a bottom bunk in a six-person dorm called the Ipanema room at the Cidade Maravilhosa, and for all intents and purposes was just another tourist in Rio de Janeiro.

But the next morning, a staff member recognised him in a television news report about his escape. When he left to buy food, the employee decided to call the police.

Officers swooped and the international manhunt for Smith, who skipped New Zealand while on temporary leave from Spring Hill Corrections Facility last Thursday, was over. His roommate spoke to the Herald soon after, saying he had been suspicious of Smith and was stunned to learn he had slept next to a "cold-blooded killer".

Read more:

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Brazilian jail known for inhumane conditions

"It's terrifying," he said. "He seemed like a normal guy. I'm still trying to understand it. It's hard to believe we shared the same room."

The man said a "single detail" gave away the fact something was amiss.

"He said his name was James. And I noticed, sometimes, when we called 'James', it would take him some seconds to realise we were talking to him," said the man, who was badly shaken and did not want to be identified.

"I could never imagine he was behind all those things."

TAn employee of the Rio hostel recalled Smith checking in.

He was quiet and polite and spoke no Portuguese, the staff member told the Herald.

But they managed to joke together in English about his choice of shirt with the logo of Vasco da Gama, one of Rio's top football clubs.

"'Why are you wearing the shirt of such a rubbish team,' I asked him," the staff member said.


Smith had the bottom bunk at the Cidade Maravilhosa Hostel.

Smith said he had come to Brazil to find a woman to marry and asked where he could find longer-term accommodation in Rio.

The staff member never imagined they would see Smith's mug shot on the news the next morning. Moments after learning that James Andrews was a dangerous killer wanted by authorities in New Zealand, the staff member was told by Smith he was going to buy food.

The staff member soon called police and by the time Smith got back, five Brazil federal police officers were waiting.

Smith was on his own in the Ipanema room when the police arrived.

"Phillip," the staff member called, and Amith opened the door a "crack". "I've some guests here to see the room."

Smith opened the door and moved back behind one of the bunk beds as several plain-clothes officers walked into the room.

"What's your name?" one asked him. Smith lowered his head and looked at the floor.

"Where are your documents?" the officer continued.

Smith mumbled something, crouched down, and started rummaging through his suitcase.

The officers then revealed who they were. "It's over. We know who you are," a federal officer said.

They found his passport in his birth name, Phillip John Traynor, in his luggage and arrested him.

"He was talking quietly when they led him away," the hostel manager said.


Smith's hostel registration.

"I couldn't hear him as I didn't want to get too close. The only thing I heard him say was, 'Don't hurt me', when they put the handcuffs on him."

Hostel guests told the Herald he had tried to convince one of his room-mates to drive him 400km to Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city.

That roommate and another checked out of the hostel, traumatised at having shared a room with a murderer.

A 24-year-old Brazilian guest said Smith was very quiet. "I assumed that he had a job because he was on the computer the whole time."

Smith moved to another jail, declines media interviews

Smith was later remanded in custody to the notorious Ary Franco Prison, he was jailed under the name Phillip John Traynor, the name on the passport he travelled to Brazil on.

This morning he was transferred from Ary Franco to the Bandeira Stampa public jail, part of the Gericinó Penitentiary Complex in Bangu in Rio's Western Zone.

No reason was given for the transfer, other than it is a "unit in accordance with his profile".

When he was sentenced to 60 days preventative detention on 12 November, the judge Flavio Roberto de Souza said "It must be born in mind that, given the deportation request, that he could escape to an unknown location, as he did during his prison sentence in his country of origin."

The Gericinó Penitentiary Complex is the largest public prison in Brazil.

It was built in 1987 as a maximum security prison and it houses some of Rio's most dangerous criminals, including kidnappers and drug traffickers.

However, it is a huge prison and relatively speaking, it is modern and well-run. The section Traynor/Smith is staying in is known as Bangu 10.

Bangu 10 is one of the most modern jails in Rio. There is space for 541 detainees, divided between collective and individual cells.

Recently, Bangu 10 was home to Ray Whelan, a director of FIFA's ticketing and accommodation service Match.

Whelan was arrested during the World Cup over charges of ticket touting. Other foreigners accused of various crimes during the football tournament were jailed in Bangu 10.

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An Emergency Travel Document is being prepared to allow Smith to travel once the necessary arrangements are in place.

He is facing one charge of escaping from custody, and further charges are likely when he returns.

It was not clear whether anyone will be charged with assisting in his escape. His sister Joanne Smith, one of his release sponsors, picked him up from the jail. Police raided her Palmerston North home on Wednesday, seizing a laptop and other items.

The man who was molested by Smith as a child and who saw his father being murdered by Smith said he could now carry on with his life "without having that fear [of Smith finding him] over my shoulders".

The investigation into how Smith obtained his passport in his birth name, and where he got more than $10,200 in cash is ongoing.

Police executed a search warrant on a safe deposit box in Auckland and are speaking to a number of people about the months leading up to Smith's escape.

Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said there was an "element of luck" and good policing by Brazilian officers involved in catching Smith so quickly.

The capture

Yesterday 2am NZ time: Smith arrested at a hostel in Rio, where he'd told guests he was an Australian named James Andrews.

7am: Smith appears in court in Rio and is remanded in custody for 60 days to the notorious Ary Franco Prison.

3pm: Police say they are working through options available to get Smith home, including deportation and extradition. An Emergency Travel Document (ETD) was being prepared to allow him to travel once the necessary arrangements are in place.

- NZ Herald

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