By PATRICK GOWER
RSA triple-murderer William Bell had binged on a pure form of a drug known for violent side-effects before bashing his victims to death.
The Herald has learned that Bell used the drug speed just hours before beating four people with the butt of a shotgun in an hour-long attack while robbing the Mt Wellington-Panmure RSA.
His family say he became a heavy user of "pure" methamphetamine - known as "P" - after his release from maximum security Paremoremo prison five months before the murders last December 8.
Bell had told them he "blacked out" while inside the RSA because of the drug.
Although the police investigation found no evidence of his methamphetamine use, Bell told his trial jury that he was "wasted" on it at the time of his arrest five days after the killings.
"On his own admission, he is a meth user," said Detective Inspector Gavin Jones, the officer who arrested Bell.
"That clearly demonstrates the worry that we have about people using meth and the correlation with the increase of violence in Auckland City with the detection of meth labs."
Bell was yesterday convicted of murdering Bill Absolum, Wayne Johnson and Mary Hobson, and of attempting to murder Susan Couch during the RSA robbery.
He bashed each of them with the butt of a shotgun in an attack that lasted up to half an hour and which police have described as "psychopathic", although Mr Jones said there was nothing to suggest that use of the drug caused the rampage.
In September, police said there was evidence that methamphetamine drugs had fuelled the rises in robberies and violence in the Auckland City District, where violent crime jumped by 12.8 per cent and robbery by 18 per cent.
"Pure" methamphetamine is widely used in Auckland.
The Herald understands that convicted killer Ese Falealii was using pure methamphetamine at the time he shot pizza worker Marcus Doig and ASB Bank worker John Vaughan during an armed rampage this year.
The drug - sometimes called ice, burn or crystal meth - is usually smoked in a glass pipe, giving users a better and longer rush than when snorted as a powder.
On the street, one gram of "pure" is worth $1000, and it is usually bought by the "point" of a gram.
Michael Bell said his older brother quickly became addicted to "getting fired".
"William even gave me his dak [cannabis], which was unusual. He had stopped smoking joints and started to smoke 'P'.
"He was hooked on the shit. His eyes were always expanded."
Another relative, his cousin Jack Oti, said Bell was "having a few burns" in the carpark outside a Maori Warden Christmas break-up function the night before the RSA killings.
American expert Gary Shimabakuro recently toured New Zealand consulting authorities about methamphetamine use and said New Zealand was heading towards an "epidemic" problem with pure.
"My opinion is that pure would be the most dangerous drug being used in New Zealand currently."
New Zealand Drug Foundation spokeswoman Sally Jackman said they were concerned about the drug's increasing popularity and its violent side-effects.
"There is an association between paranoia and heavy use of [pure methamphetamine].
"It is a very intense form of methamphetamine.
"If you did enough plain old speed you would get to the same point, but just slower."
Full coverage of the RSA murders
By PATRICK GOWER