He was one of the country's youngest killers when sentenced to life at the age of 16 for the murder of Rotorua woman Tanya Burr. He was finally released in 2018 but only managed to succeed on the outside for just over a year. Journalist Kelly Makiha finds out what went wrong for John Wharekura and why he's back behind bars.
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A teen killer who was recalled to prison after being let out on parole will remain behind bars until at least August while further investigation into his mental health and support systems are investigated.
John Wharekura, now aged 34, was 16 when he stabbed pregnant Rotorua woman Tanya Burr to death in a frenzied and unprovoked attack with a carving knife in September 2002.
He was released on September 21, 2018 but was put back in jail on December 10 last year because the Department of Corrections deemed him an "undue risk to the community".
Wharekura was suffering from an undiagnosed psychosis in 2002 when he knocked on Burr's Hilda St flat door asking to use a pen and paper to leave a note for a friend. When she turned to get it from inside, he followed her in and stabbed her 15 times.
He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole of 14 years and was released after 16 years.
The New Zealand Parole Board has just released its recall decision to the Rotorua Daily Post following a hearing on January 7.
The decision said Wharekura had issues with his parole obligations and problems managing his mental health.
There was a general agreement time needed to be taken to revisit Wharekura's situation to provide him with a stronger platform to manage on parole.
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Teen killer deemed 'undue risk' and recalled to prison
The decision noted however, that Wharekura was "said to have a lot of potential. He was a pleasure to manage ..." and he had the support of the local church where he was living. Details of the location he was paroled to are suppressed.
The probation officer at the hearing raised five issues that needed to be addressed before he was released again including whether he was returned to the same address, keeping gang influences at bay, having outside support, reassessing his psychological situation and reviewing his medication and mental health.
The decision also noted Wharekura would "self-sabotage" coming to the anniversary of the offending each September as a result of immense pressure brought about by his "deep appreciation of the enormity of his offending".
The decision noted "time must now be spend on rebuilding".
"Without attention to the various matters we have mentioned, Mr Wharekura will pose an undue risk."
The parole board made a final recall order to have Wharekura remain behind bars for his sentence and he would go back before the parole board in August this year, the decision said.
Burr's mother, Val Burr from New Plymouth, said the process was never-ending and each hearing was hard on the family. She hoped to be heard in August by the parole board.
She said it appeared the wheels had fallen off for Wharekura and she was relieved he was back behind bars.
"I fail to see how someone as vicious as he was when he slaughtered Tanya could ever possibly be 'a pleasure to manage' or 'to have a lot of potential'. I just see his behaviour as trickery by him with people he can manipulate."