Murderer George Baker was involved in a stand-off with police at Auckland's North Shore Hospital after he was uncuffed by Corrections staff and smashed up his room before arming himself with a makeshift weapon and trying to escape.
The Herald has learned that Baker, who murdered teenager Liam Ashley in the back of a prison van in August 2006, was taken to North Shore Hospital for treatment on the morning of November 12 this year.
A source alleges that a Corrections officer removed Baker's handcuffs and he "started cutting up rough, smashing the room he was in".
Baker allegedly smashed a plate-glass window, grabbed a shard of broken glass and threatened Corrections and hospital staff with the makeshift shiv.
He allegedly tried to escape from the hospital room.
Police officers who were at the hospital at the time dealing with an unrelated matter were sent up to Baker's room and spent 10 minutes "talking him down".
Baker was then treated and returned to Auckland Prison where he is serving a life sentence for Ashley's murder.
On a previous trip to hospital for medical treatment Baker produced a homemade knife in the prison van, wounded a Corrections officer and tried to escape.
The source said if the incident this month had "gone differently someone may have got seriously hurt, or worse".
"This was a killer with nothing to lose, loose in a public hospital with no handcuffs," the source said.
"Corrections have drawn a cloak of secrecy over this to try and avoid public scrutiny."
Corrections refused to answer specific questions about the incident, including:
• what Baker was receiving treatment for
• how many Corrections staff were escorting him at the time
• why his handcuffs were removed
• if any staff had been stood down as a result of the incident
• if the department was reviewing or investigating the incident
• what security protocols were in place for Baker
• whether Baker had been charged over the alleged incident
Instead a brief statement was provided.
"Corrections can confirm that an incident occurred with a prisoner from Auckland Prison at North Shore Hospital early Saturday morning of 12 November," said the statement, attributed to Corrections northern regional commission Jeanette Burns.
"As police were present at the time, the situation was brought swiftly under control.
"The prisoner was returned to Auckland Prison. There were consequences for this behaviour and he is being closely managed.
"The Department is satisfied that all correct procedures were followed by Corrections staff."
Burns said Corrections takes the issue of violence extremely seriously and staff and public safety was the department's top priority.
"Corrections manages some of New Zealand's most difficult and challenging citizens, violence is always a risk as many offenders resort to violent behaviour as a means of resolving issues and of expressing themselves.
"Prisoners can be volatile and unpredictable and many have long histories of anti-social behaviour.
"Corrections will not tolerate prisoners using violence against staff or other prisoners, and when this does occur the prisoners involved will be held to account for their actions."
The Herald has pressed Burns for specifics on the incident and Baker's management during the hospital visit.
Senior Sergeant Colin Parmenter confirmed that in the early hours of the morning police received reports of "a prisoner in Corrections custody causing a disturbance".
"Police were at the hospital on an unrelated matter and were asked to assist," he said.
"Police spoke with and negotiated with the prisoner for approximately 10 minutes before he surrendered, was handcuffed and returned to Corrections custody."
Parmenter said police were continuing to work with Corrections on the matter.
"No charges have been laid at this stage," he confirmed.
Waitemata District Health Board spokesman Matt Rogers could not comment on the specifics of the incident.
"Waitemata DHB has a duty to protect the confidentiality of patients in its care, regardless of who they may be," he said.
"No patients or members of our staff were harmed by a prisoner at the time you have indicated."
In August the Herald revealed that Baker had been moved into an at-risk unit at Auckland Prison at Paremoremo and would be constantly monitored for the foreseeable future following an incident involving an improvised weapon.
At the time a source said Baker was caught with a shank, a homemade weapon that appeared to be made from a piece of metal aerial with one end sharpened.
Baker was moved to the at-risk unit soon after.
Corrections refused to comment on the specifics of that incident.