The inmate found dead in his Mt Eden prison cell had admitted violence and sex charges against women and children spanning a period of four decades.
The Herald can reveal the prisoner was Liberty Charles Baker, 63, who was due to be sentenced in the High Court at Whangarei this week after pleading guilty to nearly 80 charges including rape, sexual violation, assault, kidnapping, threatening to kill and grievous bodily harm.
His sentencing was delayed until December but now detectives from Auckland City are investigating the "sudden death" of the remand prisoner after being notified by phone at 8.41am.
A post-mortem examination is scheduled for tomorrow and the death was referred to the Coroner, as well as subject to a review by the Corrections Inspector.
Key questions will focus on the circumstances leading to his death including whether he was threatened by other inmates and if there was sufficient supervision of Baker by prison staff.
The Herald understands Baker's body was moved by Corrections staff in a bid to resuscitate him, but this has created tension with the investigating police officers because the potential contamination of evidence.
Spokeswomen for the Auckland City police and the Corrections Department declined to comment about the movement of the body and referred questions to one another.
In a statement, Corrections Department Northern Regional Commissioner Jeanette Burns said death of a prisoner in Corrections custody is a "tragedy" and expressed condolences to his family and friends.
She said inmates are often suffering from extremely poor mental health when they arrive in prison and the care they receive in prison often far exceeds what they were accessing in the community.
"Despite the significant efforts we make, it is incredibly difficult to prevent the actions of someone who is determined to hurt themselves."
Ms Burns said this was a common issue worldwide where mental health disorders and illness is up to five times more prevalent in prisons than in the community.
"In saying this, our staff have saved the lives of approximately 100 prisoners over the last five financial years. These prisoners were involved in self harm incidents where the individual would have been unlikely to survive without staff intervention."
Baker's death comes just a few weeks after the Corrections Department took control of the Mt Eden Corrections Facility, which was being operated by private company Serco, following allegations of fight clubs and drug smuggling.
Serco was also docked $565,000 for breaching its contract with the Government.
Following that scandal, the Herald revealed two members of the Head Hunters inside Mt Eden Prison were arrested for their alleged role in a methamphetamine ring.
A former guard is also under investigation for helping smuggle cellphones and other contraband to them.
Unnatural deaths in custody at all New Zealand prisons:
• Unnatural Deaths include suicide, homicide, death by drug overdose, and death by accident, and where there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the event was most likely not due to natural causes. Determination of the actual cause of death in these cases will be made by a coronial hearing.
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm to 6pm weekdays)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• The Word
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• CASPER Suicide Prevention
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.