Runaway prisoner Phillip John Smith has cost the taxpayer close to $1 million taking court cases against the Department of Corrections.

Smith, who achieved infamy after fleeing his jail cell and escaping to Brazil, has taken 11 cases against Corrections since he was put behind bars in 1996.

The murderer and child sex offender has eaten up more than $890,000 taxpayer money for cases including a claim that he should be allowed to wear a wig - the balding Smith was only banned from wearing it after it formed part of his disguise when he fled to South America while on temporary release in 2014.

Smith has a parole hearing on Monday in a fresh bid to be allowed out of prison - something family of his victims are fighting against.


Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show a costly string of legal challenges. His failed battle to wear a wig cost $133,000 while a fight to be allowed to give a media interview cost $44,000.

He challenged security conditions costing a staggering $250,000 and another scrap over accommodation and treatment at Auckland Prison cost another $75,000.

But it's the human cost of Smith's offending that weighs heavily on the boy he sexually abused and his family.

Smith was jailed in 1995 for 13 years for murdering the father of a 12-year-old Wellington boy he had been sexually abusing. At the time he was on bail facing child molestation charges.

The costs surrounding the case and conviction of the convicted murderer has racked up. Photo / File
The costs surrounding the case and conviction of the convicted murderer has racked up. Photo / File

The boy's aunty known as Lynda says her nephew has recently moved back to New Zealand with his family and still sleeps with a weapon under his bed.

Monday's parole hearing is Smith's 12th. Lynda won't be at the hearing but she is vehemently against Smith's release.

Smith is now being held in low security at Upper Hutt's Rimutaka Prison, following legal proceedings where he argued being held in maximum security at Auckland Prison was a breach of his human rights. He has a job in the library.

"Him being in Rimutaka is too close for comfort. We have been let down by the police, Corrections, the parole board, time and time again.


"If Smith wasn't out on bail my brother would still be here. Smith is a devious psychopath who got into my nephew's head. He told the boy 'if you are going to tell anybody I am going to come and kill your family'.

"He certainly followed up with the threat. He killed the boy's father, my youngest brother took his own life and my mother died suddenly from a broken heart," Lynda said.

Jess McVicar, the national spokeswoman for Sensible Sentencing Trust, said the organisation believed he should stay behind bars.

"He is a dangerous man and he has no remorse for his offending or personal accountability," she said.

"We don't believe Smith should be seen by the parole board every year. It is painful for the family and it's a constant reminder of what he's done. This family has had so much loss from this man's selfish actions."

Smith nearly pulled off an audacious escape. Nine hours after walking out of Spring Hill Prison on temporary release in 2014, he boarded a flight to Chile. Although he was a convicted murderer, he passed through airport security without a hitch, declaring $10,000 as spending money.

Phillip Smith was jailed in 1995 for 13 years for murder. Photo / File
Phillip Smith was jailed in 1995 for 13 years for murder. Photo / File

It took four days before law enforcement agencies even realised he was out of the country.

Smith might have vanished for good - but he booked himself into an English-speaking international hostel in Rio de Janeiro.

"He was calling himself Robert, and when people started talking to him, he'd forgotten what his name was," his lawyer Tony Ellis told the Herald on Sunday.

Lynda was also appalled Smith was out on temporary leave without an ankle bracelet and unsupervised.

"I told Corrections and the parole board he needed to be monitored but that was obviously ignored because he was able to walk out of jail and fly to Brazil."

Her nephew was happily living in Australia with his family but fell into a deep depression when he heard Smith had fled the country.

"He was terrified. He blames Smith for robbing his children of a grandfather and an uncle."


The father of three struggles to hold down a job.

"When my brother died he kept saying 'I wish I had kept quiet - Dad would still be here'.

"I told him 'you did the right thing', but he has carried the guilt and burden from that night all his life. He still feels responsible for his father's death, and for his uncle taking his own life.

"He has never given us any peace. Smith has blood on his hands for destroying my family."

By the age of 15, Smith had his first conviction for dangerous driving. This was followed by driving while disqualified, theft, presenting a firearm, assault, wilful damage, attempted arson, receiving stolen property, cultivating cannabis, and fraud.

His convictions were entered under the name Phillip John Smith, which is not his birth name. In 2006, Smith started making false Working for Families tax credit claims to the Inland Revenue Department using other prisoners' names. Most of them were unaware and he collected more than $40,000 until the fraud was detected.

Photo / File
Photo / File

Lynda's brother, his wife, and their two sons moved into the same street as Smith in Carterton.

Smith befriended the oldest boy and the pair enjoyed trail bike riding, karate, and playing computer games. But in 1995 the parents were shattered to learn Smith had sexually abused their 10-year-old son for three years. They packed their bags and moved to a safehouse in Wellington.

Smith was granted bail, but two weeks later was behind bars again charged with extortion.

He had blackmailed an Auckland businessman who committed suicide.

Police found a letter from Smith near the body demanding $25,000 or he'd disclose allegations of sexual offending.

Incredibly Smith escaped custody, was recaptured, and bailed again.


The then 21-year-old tracked down the family of the boy he abused and staked out their home, armed with a hunting knife and a rifle he had hidden. He hid in the family's laundry for about five hours and cut the phone lines.

He crept into the victim's bedroom and stood over him with a knife. The boy's screams woke his parents and his father ran to his rescue. Smith stabbed the man multiple times in front of his wife.

The boy managed to escape and ran to the police station but Smith's reign of terror didn't stop there.

At gunpoint, Smith held the boy's mother and brother hostage before eventually giving up. He was convicted of murder, as well as a raft of other serious charges, and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 13 years.

Lynda said she never liked Smith.

"I had met him a few times and said to my brother 'I don't like that guy'.

"My brother took him in because his family was dysfunctional. What he did to my brother was terrible but what he did to my nephew is unforgivable. He knew how to hurt my nephew. He was obsessed with him, it was emotional abuse. It was horrific."


Lynda is scared that if Smith is released from prison she could be at risk.

"I am the only sibling left and I fear he will come after me if he escapes prison again or if he is released. One time when he was on remand he phoned us and said, 'I am going to get you.' I have been saying to the parole board for years, he is a clever, cunning psychopath, with no soul.

"It's because of him I have lost my whole family. I want my family to live their lives without having to look over their shoulders. I will keep fighting to make sure he stays inside. He doesn't deserve to breathe and I don't want him to think I have gone away because I haven't - I won't till the day I die and I hope that's well after him."