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No parole for police officer's killer

Andrew Popo. Photo / NZPA
Andrew Popo. Photo / NZPA

A Mongrel Mob gang member who ran down and killed a police officer in a stolen car has been denied parole.

Sergeant Derek Wootton was laying road spikes in Titahi Bay, Wellington, in 2008 when 33-year-old Andrew Popo ran him down.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter of the 53-year-old officer after a murder charge was dropped and was sentenced to eight years and nine months' jail, with a non-parole period of five years.

A Parole Board hearing earlier this month heard that Popo's behaviour behind bars had been "uneven''.

He has twice had an IDU (identified drug user) status in the last 18 months and he has also accumulated several other misconducts, even though his behaviour recently has been more settled.

His security classification has recently reduced from low-medium to low, he's completed a T3 painting course, and while he is affiliated with the Mongrel Mob, the board heard he is "not actively associating with gang members''.

Popo has just begun the medium intensity rehabilitation programme and is also wait-listed to attend the drug and alcohol Intermediate Intervention Programme and, potentially, the Drug Treatment Unit.

Mr Wootton's family told the board that Popo's victim was a police officer of impeccable character, a community man who was held in high standing. His death had a huge impact on his family, who were particularly concerned to know whether Popo was genuinely remorseful for his offending.

"They were concerned about the impact of his past gang associations on the way he operates now and what his intentions are as they see this as a risk for the future,'' the board states.

"His victims wanted Mr Popo to take every opportunity to engage in rehabilitation and reintegration activities in prison.

"The family did not wish to have any contact with Mr Popo in the future.''

Popo had only had the opportunity to read the victims' written submissions shortly before the hearing and the oral submissions were conveyed to him at the hearing.

His response was limited, other than to say he certainly never meant to harm Mr Wootton.
Popo had little else to say to the board, which it found "concerning''.

The board declined parole, saying Popo had "some way to go before the board could have confidence that it would be safe to consider his release to the community''.
He will be scheduled to be seen again in around 12 months.

In 2001, Popo was charged with manslaughter after the high-profile shooting of 16-year-old Black Power prospect Wallace Whatuira on Waitangi Day.

He walked when a key witness refused to testify, despite having given evidence against the three Mongrel Mob men during depositions.

- APNZ

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