Phillip Smith's former business partner was in jail for filming up skirts and selling the footage online when he met the convicted murderer.

David Overend, now David Edlin of Hastings, was serving a term of 21 months for making and distributing offensive material when he met Smith.

In 1997, the Otahuhu District Court heard that he fitted a pinhole camera in the toe of his shoe and filmed up the skirts of thousands of women and girls.

Mr Edlin targeted public events in the central North Island, including the Hawke's Bay A and P Show, races at Hastings and other events.

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Judge Cecilie Rushton said his sexual deviancy started in his mid-teens at a Napier swimming pool and he then became a peeping tom.

He used his website to trade his footage and advertise his own life story.

On his homepage he boasted that when he got bored with his shoe-cam he put the pinhole camera into the bath mat at a youth hostel.

Mr Edlin changed his name from Overend some time after his release. Edlin is his mother's maiden name.

Yesterday, Mr Edlin confirmed he had used the name David Overend and that he had met Smith in prison.

"I spent a short time in prison about 17 years ago. Both [my partner] and I have known [Smith] for a long, long time. I've pretty much kept my nose clean for the last 17 years."

According to the Companies Office, he had a 20 per cent share in WSE Marketing, a mail-order business Smith ran from prison, with Corrections' approval, until 2011. He was also listed as a director in a company with Smith.

"He was conducting a lot of business that didn't have anything to do with me," Mr Edlin said. "I believe that all that money that he had on him [when Smith fled to Latin America] was legitimate."

Smith, registered with the Companies Office as Phillip Traynor, owned 80 per cent of WSE.

Mr Edlin said the business revolved around imported Chinese goods sold online.

He said it involved sending "paperwork back and forth" and was operating legally with Corrections' approval. Corrections monitored the paperwork and company transactions. "We've had our business records audited by Inland Revenue and came out clean as a whistle."

Mr Edlin said Smith's decision to escape defied reason. "If you've got six months to your next parole hearing, when you could be released, why would you do that?"

He said his friend's crimes in the 1990s, which included child molestation and murder, were despicable, but he had changed since then.

"I'm not condoning what he did. What he did was horrible. He was an absolute little shit when he was a young man."

The company was struck off last November, a year after its last annual return was filed and more than two years after it was revealed that the business was being run from behind bars.

Corrections ordered a review in 2011 after it was discovered there were no laws preventing Smith, an inmate at Paremoremo Prison near Auckland, from conducting the activities, the media reported at the time.

Smith was importing products from Hong Kong with Mr Edlin, and supplied advice and accountancy support by phone, mail and via face-to-face prison visits.

It was those business activities that earned Smith the funds to flee New Zealand, and with which he was paying just $50 a week towards the tens of thousands of dollars he owed as reparation to his victims.

When the company was registered, both men used the same Hastings address that Mr Edlin currently owns.

• Reporting by Greg Taipari and Harrison Christian from Hawkes Bay Today, and John Weekes from NZME. News Service