This story from the Herald archive originally appeared in 2014.

Phillip John Smith's criminal history is long and it is violent. He has terrified and tormented, abused and killed.

Smith was born Phillip John Traynor in Wellington in 1974 to parents John and Patricia Traynor. The couple separated when their son was 3 and his mother moved him to Carterton. She remarried, and changed her son's name to Smith.

Mr Traynor had little to do with his son through his childhood and adolescence. But, through the then-Social Welfare system, he was kept up to date with Smith's early offending and police involvement.


Smith reached out to his father when he was about 18 and the pair reconnected.

"The last time I saw him personally was when he came up to Auckland about three months before he committed the murder," Mr Traynor said. "After he was convicted he wrote to me. I never replied.

"I've taken a stance that I don't want anything more to do with him."

After her son was found guilty of the murder and child sex offending, Mrs Smith spoke in his defence. He was "just like any other boy", she said in July 1996. He had his problems, but he had "a heart of gold".

Smith's offending began in Carterton in the late 1980s. A couple and their young children moved into Smith's street and he befriended their son. Smith and the boy played computer games, rode motorbikes and did karate.

The boy's parents came to regard Smith as a "big brother" to their children. In September 1995 they were "shattered" when their son revealed he had been molested by Smith over a three-year period. He was just 10 when Smith's reign of terror began.

The boy was indecently assaulted, sexually violated and sodomised under threat of his family being killed if he told anyone.

The day the teenager broke his silence, his parents went straight to police. They then packed up and moved to Wellington in the middle of the night to get away from Smith, who was charged soon after.

Smith, then 22 and a student, was charged and initially refused bail. Police feared he would try to contact the victim, after finding in Smith's bedroom a list of schools in the Wellington suburb they had fled to.

He was granted bail after he appealed to the High Court, despite having 20 previous convictions including attempting to pervert the course of justice by intimidating witnesses in a previous case by threatening to firebomb them.

Two weeks later Smith was behind bars again, charged with extortion. He had been blackmailing a West Auckland man who later committed suicide. Near his body police found a letter from Smith, demanding $25,000 or he would publicly disclose allegations of sexual offending involving the man.

But after appearing in court on that charge, Smith escaped police custody. He was recaptured - and eventually bailed again.

A condition of his bail was that he not contact the 13-year-old or even attempt to trace the family.

The warning fell on deaf ears.

On December 11, 1995 Smith was driven from Carterton to the family's new home. He crept into their back yard, where he lay in wait for three hours armed with a hunting knife and a rifle he had hidden near the home a week earlier.

He got into the house and the 13-year-old woke to find him standing over his bed. His screams woke his parents, and his father ran to the room. Smith stabbed him repeatedly.

The 13-year-old escaped and ran to the closest police station for help. Smith then took the boy's mother and brother from the house at gunpoint, refusing to let the woman tend to her dying husband. He was arrested soon after for murder.

At his trial in the High Court at Wellington, a jury heard that police found a "blueprint for murder" in Smith's bedroom.

Dubbed "Operation Smith", police described it as a "Rambo-style plan" to kill his former neighbours.

His conviction for the murder and prolonged sexual abuse did not stop him tormenting the family. Smith called their home phone four times from prison, making threats.

A police search of his cell turned up a "hit list" of names from the 13-year-old's family.