A man jailed for life as a teenager for murdering a police officer allegedly tried to escape from Auckland Prison.

The Herald understands Daniel Luff was found in a roof space at the prison at Paremoremo north of Auckland last Thursday.

Luff is serving a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years for the murder of 39-year-old Detective Constable Duncan Taylor in 2002.

A source close to the prison said Luff - who in prison has become a high-achieving academic scholar - had contraband items with him including a key and at least one cellphone.


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The incident allegedly happened in the west division of the prison where medium security inmates are housed.

Auckland Prison director Andy Langley confirmed the incident.

"During a routine muster check at Auckland Prison last Thursday, a prisoner was found in a ceiling hatch of a room within the prison," he said.

"The ceiling hatch does not lead anywhere and at no time was the security of the prison or safety of others compromised."

Langley said the prisoner, who he did not name, had a low security classification and was allowed access to the room to study.

"It is extremely disappointing that this prisoner abused the opportunities and level of trust given to him," he told the Herald.

"Staff immediately relocated the prisoner to a high security unit.

"Staff conducted a search shortly after the prisoner was relocated and found a number of contraband items hidden in the ceiling hatch."


Langley said a full operational review into this incident was underway

The matter has also been referred to the police.

"While Corrections' investigation is underway we cannot go into any further detail," Langley said.

Luff pleaded guilty to Taylor's murder soon after the deadly incident.

He also admitted a charge of attempting to murder Detective Jeanette Park.

Luff was just 17 when he shot the officers at a rural property on Taipo Rd in Awahuri, 19km north of Palmerston North.

Taylor was married with an 11-month-old son.

Murdered Detective Constable Duncan Taylor. Photo / NZ Herald
Murdered Detective Constable Duncan Taylor. Photo / NZ Herald

The officers were gunned down after Luff, who had been stalking his ex-girlfriend Stephanie Cocker, arrived at her family home with a shotgun.

Soon after Taylor and Park arrived at the property they chased Luff into the farmhouse and he opened fire.

Luff shot Taylor in the head and chest at close range.

The killer teen was taken into custody after a four-hour armed stand-off with police.

As well as the murder and attempted murder charges, Luff pleaded guilty to an aggravated burglary and the unlawful detention of his ex-girlfriend's parents at the Taipo Rd property.

He also admitted shooting at Detective Tony Heathcote during the siege, and a burglary at Long Melford Rd on the day of the shooting.

Detective Constable Duncan John Taylor was murdered in 2002 by teenager Daniel Luff.
Detective Constable Duncan John Taylor was murdered in 2002 by teenager Daniel Luff.

Last year the Herald on Sunday revealed that Luff had done well in prison, becoming high-achieving student behind bars.

He won a Massey University "Outstanding Achiever's Award" and has written a research paper with Canterbury University academic Greg Newbold.

Luff was expected to complete a psychology BA with honours in prison, and planned to continue his studies and complete a doctorate, then seek an academic career upon his eventual release from prison.

The inmate will be eligible for parole in 2019.

Prison break: Kiwi inmates who have made it over the wire

George Wilder. Photo / NZ Police
George Wilder. Photo / NZ Police

George Wilder

became a national folk hero in the 1960s when he escaped from prison three times. His first break was from a Taranaki prison, where he had been jailed for pinching a Jaguar car, in 1962. Wilder spent 65 days on the run. In 1963, he and three other inmates escaped from Mt Eden prison by scaling the walls with a rope made from sheets. While the other prisoners were soon caught, Wilder remained at large for almost six months. His final escape was in 1965, when he and two others used a shotgun to take a prison guard hostage. They were caught soon after. While on parole in 1969, Wilder got into trouble for stealing rifles and fled by rowing across the Firth of Thames. He was caught and served out the rest of his sentence.

Escaped prisoner Aaron Forden. Photo / NZPA
Escaped prisoner Aaron Forden. Photo / NZPA

Aaron Forden

was the first person to escape from then newly-opened Mt Eden Corrections Facility, in October 2010. Known as Houdini for his repeat escapes, Forden spent four months on the run after the break-out. Forden and another prisoner broke into a service way at the prison and ran off on foot. The other prisoner was quickly recaptured, but Forden escaped. Two years earlier he escaped from the old Mt Eden prison by knotting sheets together and crawling through roof cavities to a high tower. He then used his makeshift rope to lower himself over the barbed wire on the outside wall. Forden was spotted by a member of the public but was too quick for police.

Phillip John Smith. Photo / NZ Police
Phillip John Smith. Photo / NZ Police

Phillip Smith

was serving time for murder and child sex offending when he fled New Zealand while on temporary release from Spring Hill Prison in Waikato. Unbeknown to authorities at the time he had obtained a passport issued in his birth name Phillip John Traynor and boarded a flight to South America. His escape was only discovered when he failed to return to prison but he was tracked to Rio de Janeiro. A woman at a boarding house where Smith was staying in the Brazilian capital recognised him on a news report and called police. He was eventually extradited back to New Zealand. His sister Joanne Smith and a Corrections officer were also charged in relation to his escape.

Dean Wickcliffe. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Dean Wickcliffe. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

Dean Wickliffe

escaped from the country's toughest prison - and he managed it twice. He was first jailed in 1972 over the death of Wellington jeweller Paul Miet during an armed robbery. Over the years that followed he was released and recalled before being locked up on new weapons and drugs charges in 2010. He was the first prisoner to escape from maximum security Auckland Prison, known as Paremoremo, in 1976. That escape was over in minutes - he tried to swim across an estuary but got stuck in the mud.

In 1991 he escaped for a second time after he was recalled to prison for offending on parole. He was at large for a month before he was located and put back in his cell.

Kevin Polwart in the dock flanked by security guards after his recapture in 2010. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Kevin Polwart in the dock flanked by security guards after his recapture in 2010. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Kevin Polwart

had been jailed for 10 years in 2000 for robbing a security van, stealing $600,000. A year later he escaped for 41 days during which time he held up another security van. He was sentenced to a further six years when recaptured. While on the run during his first escape, Polwart taunted police and updated the media on his movements.

He scarpered again in 2009, cutting his way out of Auckland Prison through two perimeter fences using wire cutters from the prison workshop. He left a note for authorities at the prison - the words "catch me if u can" note next to a cartoon animal on a concrete slab. He was captured 50 days later.

The note Kevin Polwart left for prison officers and police when he escaped in 2009. Photo / NZ Police
The note Kevin Polwart left for prison officers and police when he escaped in 2009. Photo / NZ Police