The father of escaped murderer and child abuser Phillip John Smith said it was "absolute stupidity" to let him out of prison, because he is a dangerous "menace".

Smith, jailed for life with a minimum non-parole period of 13 years in 1996, fled on Thursday. He flew to Chile using a passport obtained in his birth name - Phillip Traynor.

He had been temporarily released from Spring Hill Prison in Waikato hours earlier and had permission to stay at a house in Waterview, Auckland.

When he did not return to the prison as scheduled on Sunday, a manhunt ensued. Police said yesterday that Smith may have been planning his escape for years.


His biological father, John Traynor, said his son had a lengthy criminal history including escaping police custody before he was convicted of murdering the father of a boy he had been molesting in 1995 in Wellington.

FROM THE ARCHIVE:When Smith was caught running mail order business from jail

"Letting him out ... that was absolute stupidity," Mr Traynor told the Herald.

"The Parole Board still had doubts about him [earlier this year], his risk to public safety. Why they did actually release him is beyond me. Obviously he is a person who is going to be a menace to society whenever he is released."

Mr Traynor said his son's history of offending after being released on bail was testament to that. The murder and a number of other crimes were committed while Smith was on bail awaiting his next court appearance.

About three months before the murder, Mr Traynor tried to guide Smith back on the straight and narrow.

Smith had been in trouble regularly with police through his teenage years and on a trip to Auckland in 1995 his father took him for a drive in the hopes of talking some sense into him.

Watch: Smith's escape: Police and Corrections under fire


"I said, 'Look Phillip, at the rate you are going if you don't buck up your ideas you'll end up locked up forever'.

"We went past Mt Eden prison and up to Paremoremo Prison and I told him, 'If you keep going the way you're going, that's where you're going to end up'."

Three months later Smith was arrested for stabbing his former neighbour to death. He was also charged with molesting the man's 13-year-old son.

"At that stage I didn't think there was much hope for him any more," Mr Traynor said. "I made it very clear, and I don't apologise in doing so, when he went to prison - as far as I was concerned he could sit there and rot. I've got no tolerance or understanding for people who commit those types of offences."

Manipulative and very dangerous: Phillip John Smith.

The murder victim's sister told Campbell Live she had begged the Parole Board to electronically monitor Smith during releases.

"I can't believe that was not done. I told them that he was going to pull the wool over their eyes and manipulate them, and that's what he's done."

Police, Corrections and Internal Affairs are investigating Smith's escape, how he obtained the valid passport and who may have helped him leave the country.

Smith was declined parole in April, but had been approved for temporary release six times for up to 12 hours as part of his prison release plan. He was due for his next parole hearing in April next year.

The visits were recently increased to 24-hour and eventually 72-hour periods. He fled when on the second of his 72-hour breaks.

Corrections' national commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot said an operational review was underway but it was too soon to say if any Corrections staff would resign or face disciplinary action.

"I think this is a hugely disappointing and distressing event for ... the victims and their families."

Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said police, through Interpol, had notified Chilean authorities.

New Zealand had no extradition treaty with Chile, but all avenues would be pursued to return the killer to New Zealand.

Mr Lightfoot confirmed Smith's sponsors, who he was supposed to stay with in Waterview, had been thoroughly vetted. One was a female relative but he would not be drawn on the other. He acknowledged the distress Smith's escape caused the family of his victims, some of whom are now under police protection.