Killer driver due out after 10 years

A Wairarapa man with a reputation of being the country's worst repeat drink-driver will soon be released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence for manslaughter.

Gavin Maurice Hawthorn, 50, who has killed four people in two separate car crashes while driving drunk, went before the Parole Board at Rimutaka Prison yesterday for a hearing to set release conditions.

He says he wants to live with his girlfriend when he is set free on June 4 but the board adjourned yesterday's hearing until April because of concerns regarding the suitability of Hawthorn's chosen address.

His partner was present at the hearing.

Probation Services signalled its concerns regarding the low level for GPS monitoring at the home Hawthorn would share with his girlfriend, and panel convenor Alan Ritchie noted there was also some concern about the relationship. The concerns made it difficult to set final conditions for Hawthorn's release.

Hawthorn's scarred face showed little emotion aside from a wry smile upon mention of his release.

Dressed in a grey T-shirt and pants, with his long hair tied behind his head, he replied to board questions with "yes" and "no" answers, apart from when he was told his hearing would be adjourned.

"Right-o, all good," he said.

Hawthorn's manslaughter conviction followed the death of passenger Lance Fryer in a crash in Greytown's Main Street in June 2003 as the two were returning from nightclubbing in Wellington.

The crash happened at 7.30am as pupils were going to school and only seconds after Hawthorn, who was drunk behind the wheel, narrowly missed hitting a school bus.

Crash investigators later ascertained the car had been travelling at 98km/h in a 50km/h zone soon after being clocked at 167km/h south of Greytown as Hawthorn tried to outrun police.

The car slammed into a concrete power pole with such force the pole shattered and snapped off, collapsing on to the road.

Four years earlier Hawthorn killed two passengers, Peter Gay and John Kaukau, in a fiery night-time crash only a few hundred metres from the 2003 death scene. On that occasion a drunk Hawthorn had crossed into the path of an oncoming car driven by Bob Stevens who survived the crash but died 15 months later from his injuries.

Aside from the two fatal crashes Hawthorn has amassed what is regarded as the worst driving record in New Zealand, along with convictions for other crimes, including injuring with intent to injure, robbery, assault, burglary, drugs, disorderly behaviour, threatening to kill and assaulting police with a weapon.

His brushes with the law began at age 16 when he was convicted of careless driving and fined $400. By 1995 he had amassed 30 convictions, 24 for driving offences and had been sentenced to five prison terms. That year he was sentenced on his seventh drink-drive charge.

Hawthorn grew up in South Wairarapa spending time in Martinborough and at Papawai, near Greytown, before shifting to Carterton where he had been living at the time of the 2003 crash that led to his 10-year sentence for manslaughter.



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