Key Points:

An edited transcript of Graeme Burton's submission to the Parole Board inquiry and the Corrections Dept's responses

Burton: I was released on parole on July 10, 2006, after approximately 14 years in prison on a life sentence. I was looking forward to getting out and starting a new life. I intended this to go well.

The Parole Board set out a number of conditions that were part of my release on parole. One was that I reside in a suburb in Wellington. The flat was a one-bedroom flat and part of a block of four. My flat was the bottom one. Access was difficult.


My birth mother was required to live with me for the first month of my release. I had met my mother about 12 times while in prison. It was okay living with her for about the first two weeks. When my mother arrived from Australia we went into an empty house. There was no furniture, no beds. She slept in a sleeping bag on the floor for the first three days. It was July and freezing in the middle of winter and a cold snap at that time. We had no power for a week.

I had no ID and couldn't open a bank account for two weeks. I didn't exist. Finally I got a letter from my probation officer and convinced a bank branch that I needed an account. My mother had to open a power account for me.

In the first two weeks things went okay. Then we both started to feel holed up in the one-bedroom flat. We started getting at each other. I didn't really know her to live with. She didn't expect me to be so intense.

I met my probation officer on the second day at the Probation Office in Newtown.

I couldn't even get my Work and Income payment as I had no bank account. My mother gave me the money to start with, as I didn't have any of my own at all. I was given a food voucher for $100 when I got out of prison but it had to be used on the day I got out and we didn't have time to get the food. It expired at the end of the first day so we had no food. We never got any other voucher to replace it.

I was on the unemployment benefit to begin with, which was $160. This changed to a student allowance after a while. It was difficult to sort out the student allowance as my mother had gone by then. I was studying at the New Zealand Institute of Sport.

On the first day I moved into the flat I said "hello" to my neighbour. He just grunted at me and slammed the door. The neighbour was crazy. He would bang on the wall whenever he heard the slightest noise in my flat.

He'd hear us come home - we'd be really quiet not to disturb him at first. He banged at any time. It could be 4am and he'd bang for hours. He really loved to do loud power kicks and punches at the wall. This scared my mother and my auntie, especially when they found out he went into another neighbour's house and pulled a knife and threatened to kill them.

I told the probie about the mad neighbour and that he'd threatened to kill the other neighbour and about my concern for my mother's safety. I asked the probation officer to move me every time I visited [her] once a week.

The probation officer advised that Burton did tell her about the neighbour but not until September.

In regard to the neighbour, the probation officer told Burton to report to the police (he refused) and make a complaint to Housing NZ (the probation officer did this). She also started the process to relocate Burton by advising HNZ the home was unsuitable because of the neighbour and the steep rise to the flat, which aggravated his knee.

The probation officer contacted HNZ about the neighbour. She states HNZ knew him as they had received notification he was aggressive and abusive to other tenants. HNZ worked through the eviction process but on the day of the Tenancy Tribunal the case was dropped as there were no witnesses.

The probation officer states she requested medical information from Burton to support his application for relocation. She also states that at no time did he tell her he could not afford a medical certificate.

The probation officer says she had no concerns about the safety of his mother as she had left by the time Burton alerted her to his neighbour.

The probation officer stated that Burton never advised her the neighbour threatened to kill him but he did advise he had concerns about the neighbour. In their discussions, Burton said he could handle him by avoiding him.

The probation officer states that Burton never said "I'm going to kill my neighbour, put me back in jail."

The probation officer says she knew he had concerns about the neighbour but she was working with HNZ to have him relocated. The day he told her he said it was a high-risk situation. He said the man was banging on the walls. He also told her that if the neighbour came to the door he did not know what he would do. The probation officer advised he never said he would kill him and never said he wanted to go back to jail.

The probation officer tried to get me moved because of the bad access as I had problems with my leg. I had to get a medical certificate and couldn't afford the $40 to see a doctor.

When I knew my neighbour was like he was, I started arming myself and preparing myself mentally for when he was going to stab me and a possible confrontation. This guy wouldn't talk, wouldn't communicate. This did my head in living next to a psycho. I got to a point where I'd had enough. He threatened to kill me.

The opportunity arose to get a Mossberg Maverick pump-action shotgun for protection against him and former enemies.

I said to the probie: "I'm going to kill my neighbour, he's keeping me awake and I'm losing it. I want to go back to jail. Put me in jail until you can get me another house.

She said, "You don't mean that". I said, "I'm going to kill him". I looked her straight in the eye and said, "Yes I do". She goes: "You'd have to be recalled to go back to jail and have to commit a crime to do so."

I said: "It took me four years to get out the last time and will take 10 years to get out this time. I don't want to commit a crime." And she said: "You don't mean that, you're doing well and being honest with me and expressing yourself, and telling me means you're not going to do it." She was all happy. I said, "Well then I may as well go hard on the crime."

The probation officer refutes all of the first paragraph. She does recall saying to him that it was good that he was being honest in expressing himself but that this comment was made in the context of the high-risk situation.

I quit the course I had been doing for two months. The probie said I had to get a job. The probie thought I was venting my frustrations and didn't take me seriously. I had a pump-action shotgun at this stage two months after my mother went home. I was getting no sleep because the crazy man would keep me awake.

The probation officer states that Burton undertook work experience for NZI Sport and that it was around this time that he began feeling stressed about his neighbour. She says she phoned NZI Sport, who advised her he had failed to turn up for his course.

She checked with Burton who said his work placement involved working at Kilbirnie Aquatic Centre helping old ladies into the pools. He told her that he wanted to withdraw, "chuck the job in", as he could not see himself gaining employment in this area.

The probation officer says she never told him he had to get a job. In fact, she did not want him to give up the course as it provided structure to his life and he was doing well. However, she did say that before he finished the course he would have to find a job, which he did.

I was trapped in my flat. I couldn't go out as Work and Income were taking money back for grants they gave me when I got out of jail. They said I owed $560. The probie sorted this out and I still ended up owing them money. After Work and Income took the money I was left with $69 a week for everything - bus fare to school, food, clothing, medical expenses and phone. I had to pay $200 in three weeks for medical expenses and I couldn't survive on the $69 so I couldn't pay the bills. If you can't pay the bills there is no medical treatment. I was in pain. I needed to be able-bodied for my sports course.

The probation officer assisted him with Winz and helped him sort out his debt. Not able to comment about medical expenses. The probation officer states that when he started work he didn't want to sort out debt as he was no longer interested.

I decided I had to move before there was a violent confrontation with the neighbour. I had no money, couldn't afford medical treatment, a debt to Work and Income and couldn't live on the money I was getting. My mother was back in Australia and I felt total lack of support. My support people, Raeleen Johnson and her husband, stopped talking to me because I missed a Sunday lunch.

The probation officer refutes he had no support available and if he felt this way he never told her. She did say he said he was very lonely. She says he had the following: his mother for a period; NZI Sport course from 9am to 3pm; psych appointments; course work; meetings with probation officer; maintenance group; gym; bowling; other support groups involved in his reintegration planning before he left prison.

The pressure got to me so I started using a kaleidoscope of drugs which I got for free because I knew everyone who knew me from jail and they wanted to stay on my good side.

I started offending - taxing the criminals in the city, establishing myself as the predominant gangster in the Wellington region.

During this time the police helicopter followed me for two days. I went with my workmates to collect money and the people attacked my workmates and then they called the police. The police pulled us up at Happy Valley Tip and arrested the driver for not having a licence and arrested the other person for demanding with menaces.

The charges got dropped. I provided false details of name to police but the real date of birth when I was detained on the side of the road for two hours. A detective arrived and asked to speak to my associate and myself separately. The detective told me he knew what I'd been up to. He mentioned that I'd allegedly broken someone's legs and been robbing and taxing drug dealers in the city. I said I didn't know what he was talking about.

The detective said: "We want you to stop offending in our city - go and do another city, we don't want the paperwork when you kill someone." He said: "We have your enemies under surveillance as well and from what we hear they have already dug holes for you and your mate.

"This is a message from the head of the Organised Crime Unit in Wellington. Stop taxing the drug dealers now before someone is killed and we won't raid your house next week, we'd leave you alone."

I said: "I'll give you my assurances that I will not commit more offences, if I was in the first place, but don't tell my probie. I don't want my parole conditions to get tougher."

The police breached the deal by raiding my house in Kingston. The police told the probation officer. Nothing was found at my house.

Once this happened I went to the probation officer the next week. I sensed a trap from the tone of the probie's voice. She was hot on it because I'd been raided for an alleged aggravated robbery. I hadn't been staying at the house but the probie wasn't aware of it. I hadn't been in the house for a month.

The probation officer said no one would sign an affidavit against me. I knew I was on shaky ground as the police were pressuring potential witnesses to sign an affidavit if they got busted for themselves.

The probation officer says this is not true and he did not report the week after. He last reported to her on November 28. On that date she issued non-association orders. The following week he phoned, and said he was at work. She instructed him to report that night. She states she did say there were no affidavits and "you are on shaky ground as you have to do everything by the book". He failed to report and the sanctions applied were escalated via written warning and then formal breach action.

The probation officer says she never said anything about police pressuring potential witnesses if they got busted.

Soon after this I went into hiding. I was acquiring a store of weapons for a final shootout with the police, as I didn't want to return to jail. The parole system makes it so hard to get out in the first place. I knew it would take 10 years to get out again and I'd rather be dead than go back to jail for that long.

I acquired a store of weapons that kept growing, as I'd take them off other criminals just because I could.

I got a series of safe houses to stay under false names through someone else and ended up in the one in Tory St above the Lone Star Restaurant.

My contact with the probation officer was over. I was on the run with no dole, living on crime waiting for a big score to get enough money to get out of the country.

I knew if I didn't make enough money quickly I'd die at the hands of the police if I wasn't got by my enemies first. I felt fully hunted, under immense pressure, determined never to go back to jail alive as I knew the lag would be huge. It would be so difficult to get out again.

In my mind I thought I was the good guy by doing society a favour shutting down all the drug dealers in the city.

But when I shot the innocent people I realised I was the bad guy and I had to be shot quickly. So I ceased to hide and went out and sought the police out where I knew they'd be at the end of the firebreak.

I saw the police and thought: "It's over." I was happy. I ran at them smiling, thinking, "It's over, thank God it's over." I was gutted that I wasn't killed.

I felt like I could get away with my offending because there were no checks and balances, no measures put in place by the Corrections Department. I had no real reintegration and rehabilitation in the community before I was paroled. I had three escorted outings with prison officers, each of six hours, before I was paroled. I don't feel it was the Parole Board letting me out that was the mistake as without hope of parole I would have run rampant in jail.

The probation officer refutes this statement. She states all checks were completed as per operations manual.

The probation officer refutes comments about no reintegration/rehabilitation. Reintegration team assisted with housing, money and key support people. Key stakeholders involved with reintegration [were] Operation Jericho, Salvation Army, Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society, Winz, Housing NZ, CPS. Probation officer assisted with Winz. Placed on NZI Sport course. Support people available. Birth mother lived with Burton for one month.

Rehabilitation: violence prevention unit, criminogenic programme, drug and alcohol treatment, and other programmes in prison, psychologist's appointments, maintenance group.

When I was released initially I was fully intent upon going straight but was unprepared for living in the community after 14 years in prison.

I notice the police want more say in refusing parole yet they never checked up on me at all once I was out in the community until it was far too late and I'd already begged my probie that I wanted to go back to jail and was ready to start offending, but didn't want to.

The probation officer says this paragraph is absolute lies. Police did check up and an officer saw him at the CPS service centre after police had advised the probation officer they did not go to Burton's home as they did not want to aggravate him. Staff have confirmed that police were aware of Burton's pending release and address. The probation officer says he never begged to go back to prison - says this is a lie


It is not my initial release that the community should be worried about but the lack of support and monitoring once I was out. I don't think it would be fair or just to refuse men who are not me and are probably nothing like me a chance to redeem themselves on parole.