Tributes paid for slain prison guard

Hundreds of mourners farewelled the first prison guard to be killed while on duty in New Zealand at a funeral service in Pukekohe today.

United States-born Jason Palmer, 33, married with two children, was assaulted on May 15 by a prison inmate at Spring Hill Prison in Waikato and died shortly after.

It is understood the Department of Corrections flew relatives, including his mother Ada and three brothers, including his twin Joshua, flew from the US for the service at the Pukekohe Town Hall, attended by hundreds of mourners where the casket was draped in both the New Zealand and US flags.

Joshua Palmer said he regretted not coming to visit his brother here, the stuff website reported.

"I am now left to ponder what could have been and what should have been with my beautiful brother."

Prison Services general manager Harry Hawthorn, farewelling Mr Palmer on behalf of his colleagues, said he spoke with a great sense of sadness, but also a sense of pride with how the Spring Hill prison team had come together and supported each other, as well as Mr Palmer's family.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins and Corrections chief executive Barry Matthews also spoke at the funeral service of the former US Marine who had been in New Zealand for eight years.

Mr Palmer came here after he met his New Zealand wife Tracy. He had been working as a prison guard for about six months.

Mr Palmer's body is expected to be taken back to the US.

As well as the police homicide inquiry, the Department of Labour and the Department of Corrections are also investigating Mr Palmer's death.

A prisoner has been charged with assault and a more serious charge is expected to be laid later.

- NZPA

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