Bankrupt blogger Cameron Slater faces being drawn into a fresh police inquiry into complaints over the investigation of a brutal 2014 home invasion attack on his defamation foe Matthew Blomfield.
The outcome of the new inquiry is with police lawyers and comes after police admitted a string of failures in handling a number of criminal complaints made by Blomfield.
Slater has always denied any illegality or any connection between himself or his blog and the home invasion attack on Blomfield. He did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Detective Inspector John Sutton of Waitemata Police said police had carried out fresh investigations into 15 complaints made by Blomfield from April 2012 to February 2018.
"The re-investigation has spanned several months and we are currently in the process of seeking a legal review from the Police's legal team."
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Sutton said the police legal review would likely be followed by a review carried out by the Crown prosecutor.
The complaints which were re-investigated were made by Blomfield during the seven-year period in which he pursued Slater and his Whaleoil blog through the courts for a series of defamatory posts.
Slater went on to lose the defamation action brought by Blomfield over those posts. Slater was also successfully prosecuted in the Human Rights Tribunal over the posts, with one described as a "character assassination".
Blomfield's complaints to police began in April 2012 when he told police Slater had obtained a hard drive with his personal and business information. Slater used the material as the basis of a series of blog posts over the next six months which led to the seven-year defamation action.
Blomfield's interaction with police over the next four years included complaints about the hard drive, being interviewed as the victim of a home invasion which took place in April 2014 and a further complaint after his computer was hacked - possibly on more than one occasion.
Complaints 'warrant further investigation'
Blomfield complained to the Independent Police Conduct Authority over police handling of complaints, leading to a review of police files identified areas that "warrant further police investigation".
Detective Inspector Hayden Mander followed with a letter in December 2017 in which he said there had been multiple failures by police investigating a range of complaints.
He said there was "little comprehension" the first complaint about the hard drive could be seen as a possible crime involving the use of the data.
"Having reviewed the file, I believe there was a failure from the outset in comprehending the complexity of this investigation; in that it might be something other than a theft or burglary.
"Once computer crime was considered, there are gaps in the investigation and there was a lack of comprehensive assessment of the criminal culpability of the persons of interest that were identified during the inquiry."
Mander, who has since left the police, said a specific complaint of "computer crime" had been made by Blomfield at the time. He said there was no evidence it had been investigated and no victim statement had been taken.
He said there needed to be a new investigation into the use of the hard drive and whether it was a "computer crime".
Mander also said police had not properly investigated a complaint by Blomfield made in 2014 after emails of his post-dating the hard drive were published online. The emails were from a password-protected cloud service, leading Blomfield to complain his information had been hacked.
Mander's letter said there were further failures by police, including around a terrifying assault on Blomfield at his Greenhithe home in April 2014.
The incident saw Ned Tehuru Paraha, now 41, enter the home where Blomfield and his family live, face covered with a Spiderman mask and carrying a shotgun.
During the assault which followed, Paraha fired a shotgun at Blomfield on at least two occasions. One of Blomfield's young daughters hid inside while the other saw her father - and for a period, her mother - fight back against the invader until he was forced to flee.
Blomfield was left seriously injured as a result of the assault, and has since testified as to the lasting damage the attack had on his and his family's feeling of safety and security in their own home.
Paraha was caught a month later and pleaded guilty to wounding with intent to injure, aggravated burglary and assault with intent to injure. He was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison.
Home invasion inquiry lacking
Mander said the "front end" of the investigation - Paraha's identification through DNA and conviction - was carried out properly.
"However, it was acknowledged from those conducting the police investigation and from yourself that others were likely responsible for the planning of this offending.
"To date, no-one else has been held to account for this offending.
"Despite you advising police of your suspicions that specific people were involved in the planning of this offending, these avenues of inquiry have never been followed up. Further, you have provided police with other lines of inquiry that remain on the file but have not been completed."
Mander said there was a "clear need" to investigate parts of the incident.
Blomfield said he met with Mander prior to the letter arriving and asked what would be done to rectify police failures.
He said he recorded the meeting because he wanted a record of any assurances given after almost five years of failing to gain traction with police.
In the recording, Mander said a production order had been used during the earlier investigation to access an individual's phone records.
He told Blomfield police "didn't really do a very good job of examining the data it produced".
Mander said he had examined the phone traffic and seen contact the days before, the day of and the day after the assault which needed further investigation.
Blomfield said he believed there was reason for police to speak with Slater in relation to the attack and had previously provided information which should have been acted on.
He said a comment made by Slater in the High Court precinct at Auckland, prior to a June 2016 judicial settlement conference, suggested Slater had knowledge as to where Paraha had obtained the shotgun used in the attack.
He followed up with an email to Slater, sending a link to a story about an individual convicted of illegal firearms dealing.
In the email, Blomfield asked: "Is this the guy who gave paraha the gun?"
Slater responded: "Possibly ... I don't know for sure but i was told it was a guy caught up in all that."
Blomfield said it was confirmation Slater had received information about the attack and the email was passed to police. He received a response saying: "Your email is noted and has been added to the file."
The hacker emerges
Blomfield said he since received information anonymously from someone describing themselves as the hacker Rawshark, the identity used by the person who hacked Slater's computer in 2014 then passed the contents to journalist Nicky Hager. The hacked material was used as the basis for the book Dirty Politics.
He said the information provided to him - which matches information supplied to and printed by the Herald in 2014 - gave him cause for concern over Slater's attitude towards him.
The Rawshark files included social media correspondence between Slater and contacts developed through the blog. Some of the content from late 2013 reflected the defamation action was placing Slater under increased pressure.
In other messages in November 2013, Slater told the contact he believed gang members were looking for Blomfield in relation to money owed on behalf of a family member. It is unknown if there was any basis for this belief.
In the message, Slater says: "they are now looking for him ... I know where he is and where he works if they want to find him ... name is Matthew Blomfield".
In another message, previously unreported, Slater tells the same contact: "Can you find out who wants to bash blomfield ... I can help them find him."
Slater has testified since he embellished claims made in conversations obtained by Rawshark. There is no evidence in the Rawshark material Slater's conversation turned into actions in the real world.
The month after the messages, on December 14 2013, Slater posted to his blog a copy of a district court decision from the defamation case which included a cover letter with Blomfield's home address.
Ahead of a pivotal Court of Appeal hearing in April 2014, the Whaleoil blog summarised Slater's side of the case for the upcoming hearing. On the same day, the blog claimed a monthly readership of 285,000 people.
In a blog post which has since been deleted, the blog's administrator wrote: "I wouldn't want to be Mr Blomfield for the next 10 years. The other side of Karma is coming."
Blomfield has said he believed the attack was somehow connected to the Whaleoil blog posts, although is definite in saying there is no evidence directly linking it to Slater.
He said his defamation struggle against Slater and the Whaleoil blog was his only conflict. In 2014, after the attack, he told the Herald : "The extension of that is Slater has a quarter of a million people who worship his blog site and would crawl over broken glass for him. You can't exclude anyone."
Slater's strong denials
On the Whaleoil blog, Slater has rejected any connection between his website and the attack. In a post, since deleted, he pointed to Paraha's gang connections and said he doubted any of his readers mixed in such circles.
In the recent Human Rights Tribunal finding on the Whaleoil blog posts, it touched on some of the matters of which Blomfield had complained to police.
It stated: "Mr Slater denies having been a party to the unlawful taking of the hard drive."
Yet the tribunal endorsed a 2014 High Court finding which said: "In the ordinary course of events persons do not legitimately come by the personal hard-drive and filing cabinets of other persons. Even if Mr Slater was not party to any illegality, it seems likely that the information was obtained illegally by the sources."
The tribunal decision also referred to the home invasion. It said: "Mr Blomfield concedes this incident (the subject of a police prosecution) cannot be shown to have been caused by Mr Slater's blogging activities."
Blomfield told the Herald there were lines of inquiry police should have pursue in relation to most complaints, yet did not.
He said the home invasion in 2014, during which he was shot at least two times, was never properly investigated.
"Someone sent this guy to do this." Blomfield said the delay in the investigation meant evidence would have decayed. "It now seems that (information) is going to be lost."
Blomfield said he did not have a criminal background, had a clean record and did not associate with gang members.
He said there was no sensible reason for a Tribesman-affiliated gang member from Manukau, to whom he had no links or connection, to come to his Greenhithe home firing a loaded shotgun.
Blomfield said he was initially excited and hopeful when police told him in December 2017 the cases would be re-investigated.
The hope had dissipated since when the files were sent for legal review in September 2018 with no update since.
"It would be totally reasonable to ask the Police why it is taking so long and when that investigation will be completed."
Lawyer: Police basic failures
Barrister Felix Geiringer, who was Blomfield's lawyer in the defamation case, said the lack of action by police was shocking yet even more so given the police review appeared to show an officer had acted in a way which prevented a proper investigation taking place.
He said the home invasion offending was criminal behaviour at the most serious end of the scale and it was "terrifying" police could "so easily decide not to take basic investigative steps".
Geiringer said there was a clear lack of urgency which included delays with the fresh investigation.
"Six months after informing Matt that they had never properly investigated the attempt on his life, a newly appointed investigator informed Matt that he had not yet read the file.
"Over 18 months later, and the Police have still not decided what further action, if any, they intend to take.
"Matt and his family have never felt safe since the attack. They don't feel that the New Zealand police have any interest in protecting them. Who could blame them?"
The defamation court file shows the origins of Slater's six month campaign against Blomfield came from a meeting he attended in April 2012.
Emails on the court file show the meeting, with former business associates of Blomfield, saw discussion focused on targeting Blomfield in a scheme called "Operation Bumslide".
In the chain of emails between the conspirators, there was a joke about Blomfield being raped and one in which an associate of Slater's made disparaging sexual remarks about Blomfield's wife.
Slater has this year gone into bankruptcy, dealt with the consequences of a stroke and seen the company holding his blog - Social Media Consultants Ltd - put into liquidation owing more than $600,000.