Deaths cut close to home

By Kathryn Powley

Memories of cousin brutally murdered come back to haunt justice minister.

Judith Collins took time out from Chinese New Year celebrations to talk to the Herald on Sunday. Photo / Michael Craig
Judith Collins took time out from Chinese New Year celebrations to talk to the Herald on Sunday. Photo / Michael Craig

An emotional Judith Collins has revealed her personal pain at the loss of a cousin, murdered when her husband breached a protection order.

The Justice Minister spoke to the Herald on Sunday yesterday, after announcing plans to use GPS monitors to track violent men and stop them going near women they had threatened or attacked.

There have been questions this week about why the police did not respond to pleas for help from Katharine Webb, whose former husband, Edward Livingstone, shot dead their son and daughter then turned the gun on himself in Dunedin this week.

But the GPS proposal dates back further. In July 2012 Collins' cousin Robyn Prole was brutally killed by her husband Rex Prole, despite a protection order banning him from approaching or contacting her.

Livingstone's violence brought back memories of Robyn's death. "She'd only been married for about two years before he murdered her," Collins said.

Robyn's first husband had died in his 20s from a congenital heart problem, leaving her to bring up their son, Alex, whom she adored.

"She met this Rex Prole person at her church where he was supposedly a rehabilitated prisoner," Collins said. "She brought him to a National Party function that I was speaking at and introduced me to him. I thought he was a bit dodgy, but it wasn't for me to judge. Next thing she was married to him. She was very happy after many, many years - she was well into her 50s - to have found someone else. That was about two years before he killed her."

The cousins were "quite close" and Collins was a guest at the wedding, but after a while communication broke down. It turned out Rex was violent towards Robyn.

She was 57 when she died. She had left him and got a protection order after a violent incident but he had breached the order.

"The day that he killed her she went to collect the mail from her mailbox at the house that they had owned," Collins said. "She drove in, didn't even get out of the car but opened up the window and he walked up to her. He had a kitchen knife in his hand and he stabbed her straight into the throat and she bled to death in front of the neighbours."

The only positive thing Collins had to say about the 65-year-old builder was he had pleaded guilty.

Collins said Robyn, the daughter of her father's sister, was a kind person who only ever saw the good in people, even when there was no good. Asked how Robyn's death influenced her work as Justice Minister, Collins said: "Obviously I need to be very professional as I am about these matters, but I am very aware of the way in which this can happen to anybody in any family. It has a devastating effect."

The Livingstone case had brought it all back.

"My heart goes out to Miss Webb, whose children have been killed by their father - the person whose first role in life should be to protect them. I don't care what excuses there are for it. He's to blame."

She was not impressed by criticism of police in this case.

"Blame must always be with the murderer. That's who is at fault here. Obviously there needs to be a coroner's inquest which will no doubt go through every detail and all the facts, but ultimately there was one person who did that. We should seek answers as to how things can be done better, but even people who were told that he was thinking this - I don't blame them, I blame him. It was a terrible, dreadful thing to do."

Last May Rex Prole was jailed for life with a minimum non-parole period of 11 years and six months.

- Herald on Sunday

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