A man facing charges for helping paedophile and murderer Philip Smith escape New Zealand has pleaded guilty.
Christopher Clifton, 25, who met Smith in prison seven years ago, appeared in the Whanganui District Court today charged with the Passports Act offence of False Representations.
Smith, who was serving life imprisonment for the 1995 killing of the father of a boy he had been sexually abusing, used a passport to make a dramatic escape to South America last year.
He was caught in Rio de Janeiro on November 13, a week after leaving New Zealand, while on temporary release from Spring Hill Prison in South Auckland.
Clifton, who faces up to 10 years in prison, helped Smith get a passport by making "an oral statement that he knew to be false" on June 26 last year.
Clifton had said he never expected Smith to leave the country. "If he didn't do this he would have got out," he said last month.
He was 18 when he met Smith in Mangaroa Prison, now Hawkes Bay Regional Prison, after he was sentenced to two years for assault with intent to commit robbery with a weapon.
He was addicted to drugs and said that while they were in prison together Smith helped clean him up. "He treated me nicely. I had a lot of people trying to beat me up and make me do certain things I didn't want to do - he protected me and looked out for me. He never gave me a reason to hate him."
Clifton knew Smith was in for murder, but wasn't initially aware of the sexual convictions. "You don't just walk up to somebody in prison and go 'what are you in for?"'
When he eventually found out about the sexual offending he said Smith played it down and told him he'd been about 17 and in a gay relationship with a 15-year-old boy. It was only after Smith's escape from New Zealand that Clifton found out the true facts.
"I don't condone any of this," he stressed. "I have a family to protect. Don't get me wrong, he's a bad guy that's done some horrible s***."
He went to live with Smith's sister when he was released from prison, and would attend Smith's parole hearings and drive Smith's family members to the hearings.
Clifton also admitted further charges of possessing a knife and threatening to kill.
Those charges relate to an incident on December 20 when Clifton called police saying he was unable to cope with the pressure from media after his link to Smith was revealed.
He told police he "just wanted someone to listen".
He was taken home by police but his partner later called police after he'd left the house dressed in camo gear and a balaclava, carrying a hunting knife.
He told his partner he "was going to die tonight".
He was found with the knife and told the police officer "when I get out I'm going to put a bullet in you", the court heard.
He also spoke to the police about blowing up buildings.
He is due to be sentenced on February 18.
- Additional reporting Melissa Wishart