Key Points:

For someone who has hardly worked in his life, Graeme Burton was living the lifestyle of a well-heeled man about town.

Home was a stylishly restored four-storey building of architectural merit in Tory St in the heart of Wellington's CBD, a short walk from the entertainment sector of Courtenay Place. The popular Lone Star bar and restaurant occupies the lower levels, the Century City Apartments the top floors.

This is where it's alleged police found Burton's commando arsenal: a Glock pistol, two rifles cut down to pistols, ammunition, knives, batons, a crossbow, kevlar helmet, a .22 rifle and a telescopic sight.

The two and three bedroom furnished "executive" apartments cost a minimum $650 per week to rent. The marketing puff speaks of luxury accommodation, featuring large living areas, balconies, contemporary decor and full security.

With the perfect vision of hindsight, it's questionable whether Burton has ever been able to function lawfully in the community as an adult. Jailed for murder at 21, he spent the next 14 years in prison, with the exception of 11 days on the run with three other serious offenders in June 1998.

He may have spent a few months on the straight and narrow following his release last July but perhaps not, if evidence of drug taking and accumulating an arms cache is proved to be correct.

Wednesday, 14 September 2005 is a date of significance in tracing the route taken by Burton, an adopted child who became a misfit, to the firebreak trails in the hills of Wainuiomata. There, Karl Kuchenbecker, a father of two young boys, who allegedly met Burton by chance on those trails died from shotgun wounds. Four others, out on their mountain bikes, were injured, three by gunshots.

On that Wednesday just over two years ago, Burton sat in a prison room before one woman and four men two were judges, another was a mental health professor.

He'd become eligible for parole more than three years earlier, in May 2002, but his escape from Paremoremo prison that sparked a manhunt involving more than 100 police had ruined any chance of earlier release.

He was sentenced to three years' prison for the escape and associated crimes.

But by September 2005 the board was impressed by information that indicated apparent progress, in particular that "in the last two years his conduct has been described as impeccable".

Burton was denied parole that time because, through no fault of his own, the board's earlier strong recommendation that the Corrections Service arrange temporary escorted releases to test his conduct away from prison had not been fulfilled.

"Without the testing of temporary releases into the community, we are not satisfied that he does not produce an undue risk to the safety of the community," the board's decision said.

Why those trial releases hadn't occurred is not explained in the written decision and Corrections isn't answering questions outside the ambit of its own carefully constructed press statements.

The Board does, however, appear to have a dig at Corrections saying, in the last sentence of the decision, "we look forward to the co-operation of prison authorities in establishing this pathway".

Burton next appeared before the board on March 20 last year, by which time he'd been on three escorted outings. The length and nature of these outings is not described.

The decision notes Burton was not classified as an identified drug user, that he'd undergone social programmes aimed at reducing reoffending and attended the Violence Prevention Unit in 2004.

Burton appears to have undertaken the violence prevention programme after the board regarded him in 2004 as "at high risk of re-offending if released".

As each appearance came and went, Burton ticked off the boxes required by the board socialisation courses, steering clear of drugs, temporary escorted outings.

Last March the barrier that stood between him and freedom was the lack of a recent psychological assessment.

The board proposed to release him three months later providing he had been assessed by a psychologist who had addressed "Mr Burton's current risk to the safety of the community".

The board's next decision is dated June 28, 2006, and it orders Burton's release on July 10. It had come to the view that "Mr Burton's potential risk to the safety of the community is not ... undue."

The psychological assessment had been done, which concluded : "Mr Burton's documented improvement in conduct and release plan supports a case for a carefully managed release under close supervision."

The decision to parole him was made despite the failure to meet the board's request that Burton be eased back into the community by a process of home leaves.

"It is regrettable (through no fault of his own), that this request has failed to achieve any result," the report says.

It also decided it would be unfair to hold against him an unsubstantiated allegation presumably detrimental to Burton referred to in the psychological assessment. It appears to relate to an alleged incident in prison but because there was no documentation to confirm whether it occurred the board put it aside.

Corrections has declined the Weekend Herald's request for a copy of the psychological report, citing Burton's right to privacy.

This is one of many gaps in the available information. The Parole Board and the Department of Corrections are conducting inquiries into their own handling of Burton's case and are not prepared to answer more than basic questions until these are completed. The board is considering having its own review reviewed overseas, which could take weeks.

News reports quoting people who knew Burton or his family paint a picture of him as an artistic and polite child, who went off the rails after his adoptive father died when Burton was in his teens.

His adoptive mother died of cancer in 1999. His birth mother, Shirley, lives in Australia but reportedly returned to Wellington to live with him for the first month of his release a condition of his parole.

Burton reportedly got into trouble when introduced to drugs upon leaving school to work in a menswear store. Several years later he murdered Paul Anderson, a person Burton chose at random and fatally knifed in an act of retribution for being kicked out of a nightclub. Mr Anderson was doing work at the club as a lighting technician. Burton was found to be under the influence of six different drugs. There is anecdotal evidence that drugs are involved, too, in recent events.

Paul Anderson's mother, Raewyn, and sister, Janet, diligently wrote submissions each time Burton was considered for parole.

On the last occasion, concerned that the board planned to free him, Janet flew to Wellington to make her submission in person. Since the death of her only sibling, she's felt an obligation to do all she can to prevent her family's experience at the hands of Burton being visited on another.

Understandably, irrationally, since Karl Kuchenbecker was murdered, Janet Anderson constantly searches for a detail she might have changed, something she might have done that could have brought about a different outcome.

She'd made handwritten notes, which she used to guide her when she spoke to the board. Two members, whose flights were delayed, missed her address. Anderson asked that they be given copies of her notes.

"If I'd typed up those notes," she wonders, "maybe my submission would have had more impact."

She felt very uneasy about the prospect of his release.

She's uncertain of the reason but as a schoolgirl she went to the birthday party of classmate Susan Couch, later to become the only survivor of the four people attacked by William Bell at the Panmure RSA in December 2001.

Bell had breached all nine conditions of his parole at the time of those murders, breaches which prompted the overhaul of parole monitoring to lessen the likelihood of such occurrences.

Whether Burton was on the special "zero tolerance" register, Corrections is not saying.

If he was, it may be that appropriate action wasn't taken when Burton first breached his conditions on January 5, notwithstanding Corrections' statement that its staff acted in "a timely and appropriate way".

Anderson was disappointed that attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous was not among Burton's parole conditions. "I needed to know that he could handle drugs and alcohol and his anger."

She had assumed it was the board's burden to prove Burton was safe. That, however, may not be the case.

The board is "the proverbial meat in the sandwich" says lawyer David Garrett. It operates, in his view, under an "ill-conceived piece of legislation the Parole Act 2002".

Garrett is representing Tai Hobson, whose wife Mary was one of Bell's victims. Hobson could be expected to be upset with the board's decision to parole Bell (who was serving five years in prison for aggravated robbery and a brutal assault of a service station attendant) prior to the RSA murders but Garrett points out the board is to a large extent hamstrung.

"Under the Parole Act, there is a virtual presumption that every violent criminal will eventually be released and sooner rather than later."

The act contained a requirement "offenders must not be detained any longer than is consistent with the safety of the community".

Says Garrett: "If the board consistently refuses to grant parole to an offender who like Burton has 'done all the courses' and behaved themselves in the artificial environment that is prison, its refusal to grant parole may be appealed to the High Court."

However, the board appeared to have had an avenue to deny Burton parole last July because he had not had the temporary releases the board recommended as a step in testing his safety in the community.

Once the board approves parole the Probation Service division of Corrections is relied upon to ensure conditions are met.

It appears Burton met his conditions from July 10 until December 5 when he telephoned his probation officer instead of attending in person.

Corrections has said he was issued with a written warning but it is unclear how this was delivered or whether Burton received it.

He failed to meet his probation officer, or telephone, at the next scheduled meeting, December 12.

The probation officer was unable to contact Burton but it was not until a week later, on the day of the next scheduled meeting, that a breach of parole complaint was filed and an arrest warrant sought. It was issued on December 22. Another week later, December 29, the Parole Board recalled Burton to prison.

Police allege that on January 3, Burton attacked a man in an apartment near his own Tory Street home, that a day later a cache of weapons was found at Burton's home, that on January 6 he was involved in a home invasion in Lower Hutt.

The next day he was on the fire trails above Wainuiomata.