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

Dying prisoner Vicki Letele arrives home to emotional welcome

Dying prisoner Vicki Letele arrived home to emotional scenes captured exclusively on video by the Herald.

Letele arrived home about 6.45pm yesterday.

Her and partner Leah's young sons had not been told and the boys called out "Mummy, mummy" as she emerged from the car.

"Hello my darling," she called before dissolving in to tears.

"It means everything to me. I get to go to sleep seeing my children and wake up and see them."

"I didn't think it was going to happen."

The Parole Board had hours earlier cleared the way for the release of the cancer-stricken prisoner who doctors estimate has about five months to live.

Special conditions of her release set by the board was that she live at the designated address, not give financial advice to anyone or act as a financial manager, and report when directed to a probation officer.

Letele learned she was being paroled an hour earlier after returning to prison from receiving chemotherapy at Auckland City Hospital.

The day had been "a roller coaster", she said.

She thanked those who made it possible and said she would make the most of the precious time she had left.

Letele's uncle, Ula Letele said of the moment his niece was told she was to be released: "she is totally euphoric".

"First from the [her first chemotherapy yesterday] infusions, she's almost comatose and then to return to the prison to be told she is being released ..."

Vicki Letele is hugged by family as she arrives home after being released from prison. Photo / Dean Purcell
Vicki Letele is hugged by family as she arrives home after being released from prison. Photo / Dean Purcell

Her uncle said the family wanted to thank those who had supported efforts to have her released to spend her remaining time with family.

The Board said it is releasing Letele today on compassionate release under section 41 of the Parole Act 2002.

"The Parole Board appreciates the pain and hurt the family is facing, and has made the Release decision on compassionate grounds based on all the known information around her medical condition."

The family said the decision was made late this afternoon. It follows a review by Corrections of its earlier advice that her health needs were being adequately met in prison.

It's review placed more emphasis on the compassionate aspects of her circumstances.

"I consider that Vicki's circumstances meet the grounds for a compassionate release as she is seriously ill and is unlikely to recover," chief executive Ray Smith said in a letter yesterday to the family.

Releases on compassionate grounds are relatively rare. There were six applications to the Parole Board in the past year, all of which were approved, according to the Board's annual report.

Letele's application was turned down by the Board late last month after Corrections opposed early compassionate release and told the Board that she was being adequately cared for in prison.

Letele is eight months in to a sentence of three years and two months for 10 offences of mortgage fraud that netted $500,000, has terminal cancer and is expected to live for less than five months.

She was due to be considered for parole in April next year, with her full sentence to end in May 2019.

Video

The Board had decided her case did not meet the exceptional circumstances test for early release but said Letele's condition would inevitably deteriorate to the extent she'd required hospice care and at that time compassionate release would be appropriate.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins last week asked her department to reassess its advice after publicity about Letele's situation and a petition that quickly gained 12,000 signatures.

Prime Minister John Key said at the time: "I would have thought we're a pretty compassionate country. We do need to take on board the criminal activity that the person's undertaken but I don't think we want to see people dying in prison if, on compassionate grounds, it's reasonable they could be returned home."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 09 Dec 2016 18:39:38 Processing Time: 652ms