American charged with assisting suicide is safe from arrest

By Elizabeth Binning

An American woman has been charged with assisting an Auckland woman to commit suicide - but she is unlikely to ever appear in a New Zealand court.

Susan Wilson was charged in the North Shore District Court yesterday in relation to the death of Audrey Wallis.

Ms Wallis was 49 when she killed herself in August 2007.

It is alleged Ms Wilson - who lives in North Carolina - assisted in her suicide, although police would not give details about her death.

Police started an investigation in May 2008 after a British documentary in which Wilson revealed she had come to New Zealand to assist Ms Wallis in her suicide. She said Ms Wallis paid her about $2000 for travel expenses.

Wilson, who has reportedly admitted to counselling people who want to end their lives, has said since the interview that she did not help Ms Wallis.

A 30-year friend of Ms Wallis, Annette Houghton, last night told the Weekend Herald Wilson was someone who "travels around and helps people kill themselves for money".

"Sadly this woman wasn't interested in helping Audrey have a life," Mrs Houghton said. "She is a very, very odd woman by all accounts,"

Dignity NZ founder Leslie Martin last night told the Herald that Wilson had once contacted a US church minister - and alleged suicide assistant - wanting to end her own life.

Ms Martin said the only reason Wilson did not take her life was she needed someone to look after her pet snakes.

In January the FBI interviewed Wilson on behalf of New Zealand police, offering her the chance to return to New Zealand voluntarily.

She refused, and a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Assisted suicide carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, but is not covered by the extradition treay between New Zealand and the US.

Ms Wallis's death has been referred to the coroner.

- NZ Herald

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