A teenage dominatrix convicted and then acquitted of murdering cricket umpire Peter Plumley-Walker in the late 1980s is set to benefit from a new taxpayer-funded TV show.
The TVNZ docu-drama Mistress Mercy will centre on one of New Zealand's most significant murder trials, that of the 1989 murder of Plumley-Walker.
On January 27, 1989, Plumley-Walker took part in a bondage and discipline session at the Remuera home of dominatrix Renee Chignell, then 18, and her boyfriend Neville Walker.
After tying him up, Chignell left Plumley-Walker alone for about 20 minutes while she had a coffee and cigarette. When she returned, he was unconscious and not breathing.
The pair didn't call the police and instead stowed Plumley-Walker's body in the boot of his car, travelled to Huka Falls, near Taupo, and hurled his body into the water.
Chignell was tried three times for the alleged murder along with Neville Walker. The pair were acquitted after the final trial in 1991.
Although she was cleared of murder, Chignell was sentenced to two years in prison for wilful destruction of Plumley-Walker's car.
Mistress Mercy will feature interviews with Chignell, as well as "archive footage and dramatisation" of the incident.
In July, the Gibson Group production company received up to $1,109,750 from NZ On Air to make the 90-minute Sunday Theatre docudrama for TVNZ.
Marketing material released by TVNZ said the featured case was the "most sensational trial New Zealand had ever seen".
"Long before 50 Shades of anything, teenage dominatrix Renee Chignell was at the centre of a moral firestorm that introduced the words 'discipline', 'bondage' and 'golden shower' into every astonished suburban living room in New Zealand," the promo read.
"Charged with the murder of cricket umpire Peter Plumley-Walker, along with her boyfriend Neville Walker, the 18-year-old was barely out of the news for two years before she was finally acquitted - after three high court trials, a trail of secret witnesses and discredited cops."
Despite the grandeur of the trial, the docu-drama itself is heralding negative reviews before it has even aired.
Fairfax reported that Christopher Harder, who represented Neville Walker at all three trials, has refused to take part in the docu-drama, claiming it is "sanitising" history.
He also believes Chignell should not be allowed to benefit financially from a crime.
According to Fairfax Harder was approached by producer Gary Scott to be interviewed for the project, but said he became alarmed that key details were being left out, and that producers were being overly sympathetic towards Chignell.
"They are twisting history by omission. It's a fiction based on the truth," Harder told Fairfax.
"She shouldn't be getting paid for this."
A TVNZ spokesperson refused to disclose specific commercial arrangements but said despite the company's firm policy not to pay for interviews, there were certain exceptions when it came to docu-dramas.
"In docu-dramas like this, it is sometimes appropriate to pay a fee for the rights to tell someone's story and to pay for the extensive time commitment involved in both pre-production and production.
"Renee's past doesn't automatically preclude her from receiving the same terms a producer may offer anyone else in a similar position."
The spokesperson said clear distinctions had been made between content developed outside the newsroom and our news content.
"There were many people involved in the case over three trials and a subsequent appeal.
"We have approached a wide range of people who were close to the case. The job ahead of us is to draw on these individual accounts to develop a programme that's a workable length and insightful and compelling for our viewers."
It's understood Stuart Grieve QC, who represented Chignell, will also take part in the project.
Mistress Mercy is set to screen as part of a future Sunday Theatre season on TVNZ 1. The programme is still in production and no date has been set.