RSA triple murderer William Bell has been awarded compensation after he was illegally strip searched in prison.

Bell became one of New Zealand's most notorious killers when he killed three people and wounded a fourth at the Mt Wellington-Panmure RSA in December 2001.

Mary Hobson, 44, Wayne Johnson, 56, and William Absolum, 63, were killed during the robbery.

Bell bludgeoned them with the butt of his shotgun.


He also seriously injured Susan Couch, who worked part time doing the club's accounts.

The Department of Corrections paid Couch - the sole survivor - $300,000 in punitive damages in 2012.

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Last month, Bell was awarded $1000 in compensation, a Corrections spokesperson confirmed to the Herald.

It came after the 2018 High Court ruling that compensation was payable to prisoners who were subject to an unlawful strip search at Auckland Prison in 2016.

Police and forensic experts at the RSA after William Bell killed three people there. Photo / File
Police and forensic experts at the RSA after William Bell killed three people there. Photo / File

Some 200 prisoners were searched as part of a hunt for weapons and home brew after prison guards were attacked.

Other high-profile offenders who have been awarded $1000 for the illegal search included the two inmates who began the legal proceedings, Arthur Taylor and Phillip John Smith.

But the spokesperson said the compensation was paid to the Ministry of Justice in accordance with the Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Act 2005.


"The ministry may then deduct any reparation, legal aid or money owed to victims under earlier orders before paying the balance into the victims' claims trust bank account and publishing information on the ministry's website so that victims can make claims against it.

"Victims have six months in which to make a claim."

Bell was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 33 years, initially. On appeal, the non-parole period was reduced to 30 years.

He was also sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment for attempted murder and a concurrent 12 years for aggravated robbery.

He was on parole at the time of the murders and already had 102 convictions.

Four months before the murders, Bell had worked as a barman at the clubrooms as part of a work-experience programme.

He will be eligible for parole in December 2031, at the age of 54.

William Bell in the dock at his sentencing in 2003. Photo / File
William Bell in the dock at his sentencing in 2003. Photo / File

Bell's time in prison has been eventful and marred with controversy.

In May 2004, he was found hanging in his prison cell in what was later deemed to be a bizarre escape attempt.

Sources told the Herald at the time they did not believe he was trying to kill himself but was likely planning to bolt from hospital.

In December 2007, he was attacked by another inmate at Auckland Prison's maximum security Delta Block after Bell made derogatory comments about his victims.

Convicted murderer Dean Shepherd set upon Bell while the pair were alone in a telephone room at Auckland Prison in December 2007.

Shepherd - serving a life sentence for the 2004 murder of his landlady - stabbed Bell in the eye with a sharpened piece of steel from a ring binder because he was sick of hearing him talk about his crimes.