Mark Middleton was once a popular choice to become Whanganui's Member of Parliament ... now he is facing deportation.

The stepfather of murdered schoolgirl Karla Cardno has been ordered to leave New Zealand after overstaying for more than 30 years.

Middleton, who came to live in New Zealand with his British parents as a 4-year-old in 1962, said immigration officials stormed his workplace on Tuesday, accusing him of living in the country illegally.

He was arrested and put in a cell at a Wellington police station until Wednesday afternoon.

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In 2001, he was living in Whanganui when he was sentenced to nine months in prison over threats he made against Paul Dally, the man who snatched 13-year-old Karla as she rode home on her bike from Lower Hutt shops in 1989.

Dally raped and tortured Karla for 22 hours before burying her alive.

Middleton had made threats about what he would do to Dally if Karla's killer was ever granted parole, included graphic statements to the Wanganui Chronicle.

His stand aroused widespread support across the country and saw him bid to enter Parliament as MP for Whanganui on a law-and-order platform that included bringing back the death penalty for certain crimes.

At Auckland court in 2001, he pleaded guilty to charges of threatening to kill, was found guilty and received a suspended nine-month jail sentence which he did not have to serve.

Mark Middleton outside the Whanganui Distrct Court after appearing to face a charge of threatening to kill in 1999. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Mark Middleton outside the Whanganui Distrct Court after appearing to face a charge of threatening to kill in 1999. Photo / Mark Mitchell

This week, Immigration New Zealand assistant general manager Peter Devoy confirmed Middleton was served a deportation order and that he'd been "unlawfully in New Zealand since 23 December 1986".

"Mr Middleton was issued a 30-day visitor visa in November 1986 after he returned to New Zealand from a holiday abroad and did not have valid re-entry permission. INZ wrote to Mr Middleton in January 1987 advising him that he needed to regularise his immigration status."

Devoy said he had not made any visa applications since then.

Middleton, now living in Wellington, said he and his family went on a holiday to Fiji in 1986 and when he returned to New Zealand officials queried his passport but let him back in without further questions.

He did not recall getting the deportation order, and said he had never been back to Britain since leaving there as a child.

"And here we are ... they turn up at my work and tell me I'm an overstayer," the now 60-year-old said.

He said if he was kicked out of the country it would destroy his family, as he was the sole breadwinner. "I've got kids here ... my family."

Middleton's lawyer Keith Jefferies said it could have been sorted out with a phone call.

"There's been a cock-up 56 years ago which they should have the ability to investigate, remedy and say this has been a bureaucratic mistake."

Middleton has been granted a two-week reprieve to appeal the decision.

He stood as an independent candidate for Whanganui in 1999, campaigning on law changes and the return of the death penalty. He captured 10 per cent of the local vote, polling at 3376 behind Chester Borrows for National on 9679 and Jill Pettis who won the seat for Labour on 12834.

Dally remains in prison for the murder of Karla Cardno. His last unsuccessful bid for parole was in 2017. His next hearing is November 2019.