Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

RSA triple murderer William Bell busted watching porn DVD in cell

Triple murderer William Dwane Bell. New Zealand Herald photograph
Triple murderer William Dwane Bell. New Zealand Herald photograph

RSA triple murderer William Dwayne Bell has been charged after he was caught with a pornographic DVD movie in his cell at Auckland Prison.

The Herald on Sunday can reveal that the DVD was found in Bell's cell during a routine search several weeks ago.

It is understood he had been watching the pornographic movie on a DVD player loaned to him by Corrections.

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Bell became one of the most notorious murderers in New Zealand history when he callously gunned down William Absolum, 63, Mary Hobson, 44 and Wayne Johnson, 56, during a robbery at the RSA on December 8 2001.

He shot all three in the chest before bludgeoning them with the butt of his shotgun.

He also shot Susan Couch, who worked part time doing the club's accounts.

She survived - just.

Bell left the mother-of-one for dead with broken arms and severe head injuries that caused a stroke.

She lost about 80 per cent of her blood and ambulance officers later said she came as close to dying as she could get.

Corrections confirmed a contraband DVD was found in an inmate's cell but refused to name Bell.

However two prison sources have confirmed it was him.

Flowers being laid on the memorial headstones for Wayne Johnson, William Absolum and Mary Hobson a year after the three were killed by William Bell. New Zealand Herald photograph
Flowers being laid on the memorial headstones for Wayne Johnson, William Absolum and Mary Hobson a year after the three were killed by William Bell. New Zealand Herald photograph

"The DVD had been modified to appear as a regular commercially produced music CD," Auckland Prison director Andy Langley told the Herald on Sunday.

"Prisoners are able to have up to 12 commercially issued CDs issued to them as part of their authorised property."

Langley said the DVD player was given to him during a lunchtime lock up period "to enable him to watch a DVD which was part of a programme he was taking part in".

"He was charged with an offence through the internal misconduct system for being in possession of contraband, and pleaded guilty," he confirmed.

Langley said the find had resulted in changes to the rules around DVD players for all inmates in the maximum security prison at Paremoremo.

"Any DVD content that needs to be displayed will now occur in an education room with staff supervision," he said.

"Staff have also been reminded that every disc entering the prison must be checked for legitimacy, even if it does not appear to have been modified or doctored."

Langley said a "range of methods" were used to prevent contraband from entering prisons.

"They include extensive prison perimeter security, camera surveillance in visit rooms and other areas, searches of prison visitors and staff, the use of scanners and x-ray machines at entry points, checks of incoming prisoner mail and property, and use of specialist detector dog teams.

"Prisoners in possession of contraband, or those found to be introducing it into a prison, will be held to account," he said.

Auckland Prison at Paremoremo, the country's toughest prison. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Brett Phibbs
Auckland Prison at Paremoremo, the country's toughest prison. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Brett Phibbs

A prison source said it was initially suspected that Bell was able to smuggle the porn into the prison through his job in the kitchen.

He was stood down from that job while the find was investigated.

It is understood he was reinstated after the disciplinary action was completed.

It's not the first time Bell has faced internal charges for having illegal items in his cell.

In 2012 Corrections staff found a pair of prison officer trousers and a stab-proof vest in his cell.

Bell had been wearing them around his wing in D Block, showing off to other inmates.

The source said Bell stole the trousers and vest while working as a "mess man" or wing cleaner.

As part of his job Bell had access to the guards' office to clean it.

Chillingly, Bell was wearing a police shirt when he murdered his three victims at the Mount Wellington-Panmure RSA.

Four months before the horrific murders Bell had worked as a barman at the clubrooms as part of a work-experience programme.

He was on parole at the time of the murders, and had accumulated 102 convictions before committing that crime.

Bell was convicted of three counts of murder and one of attempting to murder Couch.

He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 30 years.

The sentence was reduced on appeal from 33 years without parole - but it is still the longest minimum prison sentence imposed on an offender.

He will be eligible for parole in December 2031, at the age of 54, but the prospect has already been raised that he may never walk free.

William Bell during his trial for the murder of three people at the Mount Wellington-Panmure RSA. New Zealand Herald photograph
William Bell during his trial for the murder of three people at the Mount Wellington-Panmure RSA. New Zealand Herald photograph

Bell's time in prison has been punctuated with regular incidents of misbehaviour and violence.

In May 2004 he was found hanging in his prison cell in what was later deemed to be a bizarre escape attempt.

Sources told the Herald at the time that they did not believe he was trying to kill himself.

Rather, Bell was likely planning to bolt from hospital.

But, he had no chance.

Although he was taken to North Shore Hospital for treatment, he was back in the prison early the next day.

In December 2007 Bell was attacked by another inmate after he made derogatory comments about his victims.

Convicted murderer Dean Shepherd set upon Bell while the pair were alone in a telephone room at Auckland Prison in December 2007.

Shepherd - serving a life sentence for the 2004 murder of his landlady - told a probation officer he stabbed Bell with a sharpened piece of steel from a ring binder because he was sick of hearing him talk about his crimes.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the attack on the triple murderer, to be served concurrently with his life sentence.

- Herald on Sunday

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