Phil Taylor is a Weekend Herald and New Zealand Herald senior staff writer.

Boxer Dave Letele's plea for imprisoned dying sister Vicki Letele who has cancer

A boxer and weight loss star is fighting to get his dying sister out of prison.

Vicki Letele, 35, is eight months into a sentence of three years and two months for fraud.

She has terminal cancer and is expected to live for five months. The mother-of-three wants to spend her remaining time with her family.

Her brother Dave Letele is a boxer and weight-loss motivator known as the Brown Buttabean, who a few years ago trimmed 90kg from his frame.

He told the Herald the family just want Letele home and they may seek to review a decision not to release her early on compassionate grounds.

Read more:
Rachel Smalley: Move imprisoned mum with terminal cancer to home detention

Despite her prognosis, the Parole Board has decided that does not meet the exceptional circumstances test for early release.

Vicki Letele with her brother Dave. Photo / Supplied
Vicki Letele with her brother Dave. Photo / Supplied

The board said that Letele's condition would inevitably deteriorate to the extent she would require hospice care and at that time compassionate release would be appropriate.

In contrast to the submissions of several doctors and a nurse, Corrections opposes early compassionate release and has told the board that she is being adequately cared for in prison.

Her family refuse to accept that she is not likely to be released until she has just a few days to live and is taking legal advice, Dave Letele said today.

Boxer Dave Letele (The Brown Buttabean) whose sister Vicki is in prison and has terminal cancer. Photo / Dean Purcell
Boxer Dave Letele (The Brown Buttabean) whose sister Vicki is in prison and has terminal cancer. Photo / Dean Purcell

"I have no confidence in them at all, considering it took seven weeks of my sister complaining that she was sick and my mum, begging the jail to send her to a hospital. That fell on deaf ears."

She had been vomiting a black substance that Letele said doctors told them was faeces.

The prison knew she had previously had ovarian cancer, he said.

Vicki Letele with her parents (front) Tui and David, her partner Leah, and brother Dave. Photo / Supplied
Vicki Letele with her parents (front) Tui and David, her partner Leah, and brother Dave. Photo / Supplied

When she was finally taken to Middlemore Hospital terminal cancer was diagnosed.

"The night before she was taken to hospital she kept choking when lying flat. The medical staff at the prison told her to put a mattress up against the wall and sleep upright. Are we in a Bali prison? That's what it seemed like to me.

"The hospital scan found a massive growth. Had they got that earlier, who knows what might have been."

Vicki Letele with her brother Dave, years ago. Photo / Supplied
Vicki Letele with her brother Dave, years ago. Photo / Supplied

In March this year, Vicki Letele, a former mortgage broker, was convicted of 10 charges of dishonestly using a document to enable low-income families to obtain home loans. She had received a financial benefit from the criminal activity known as "hydraulic mortgage" fraud.

In April next year she'll be eligible for parole, but there's every chance she won't make it that long.

Vicki Letele with her children and partner. Photo / Supplied
Vicki Letele with her children and partner. Photo / Supplied

Letele is currently back in Middlemore due to complications but will be return to prison at Wiri when she improves.

Her brother said he understands those who might say it is his sister's bad luck. "She did the wrong thing. Vicki had no problem serving that time but I don't think it fits the crime anymore. The judge didn't sentence her to death in prison."

Vicki Letele in the NZ Kiwi Ferns. Photo / Supplied
Vicki Letele in the NZ Kiwi Ferns. Photo / Supplied

His sister has three children, including adopted boys aged 3 and 6. "Our wish is to spend some quality time with her before she passes."

One of the sticking points in this case is the Parole Board's definition of the term "imminent death". It says it's when death is expected between three to five days.

The board has told her that if and when she gets sicker, it will reconsider. But that will be too late, for her family.

"She needs time to tell her young boys that mum isn't going to be around for much longer and to let them know that that is OK," said her brother.

The family has vowed to continue fighting and has now hired a human rights lawyer.

- NZ Herald

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