The gunman who shot dead six people and wounded four others at Raurimu has been given regular, unsupervised leave, angering the son of one of his victims.
Stephen Lawrence Anderson, who has been a psychiatric patient at Porirua's Kenepuru Hospital since the 1997 massacre, spent Christmas with relatives in Wellington as part of a long-term plan to reintegrate him into the community.
The 35-year-old schizophrenic was responsible for one of the worst mass killings in New Zealand history, after running amok with his father's shotgun at a family gathering in the tiny North Island town, 34km southeast of Taumarunui. He was later found not guilty by reason of insanity on multiple charges of murder and attempted murder, and detained as a special patient at Kenepuru.
Capital and Coast District Health Board chief executive Derek Milne refused to discuss Anderson's case, saying it was not the board's policy to comment on individual patients.
However, Anderson's aunt Toni Curley confirmed that as part of Anderson's ongoing rehabilitation he was allowed extended periods of unsupervised leave.
He had spent several days away from the hospital during the Christmas holidays and had spent time with her and her husband in Wellington.
Anderson, she said, had been taking his medication and "seemed quite good". There had been no talk about the events of 11 years ago and he seemed to enjoy reacquainting himself with family.
Anderson's lawyer during the 1997 trial, Stuart Grieve QC, did not wish to comment, but the son of one of the men slain during the Raurimu massacre was angry his father's killer was being allowed into the community.
David Van de Wetering's father Henk, 51, was shot and killed by Anderson during the Raurimu rampage as he tried to raise the alarm by flagging down a passing truck.
Van de Wetering's elder brother Rodney was also shot in the head and arm, but survived.
Van de Wetering told the Herald on Sunday the tragedy had destroyed his family. Not only had he lost his father, but his mother had moved overseas with his brother Rodney because they could not cope with living in the same country as Anderson.
His mother had spent years battling ACC for assistance to help cover the cost of treatment for injuries suffered during the massacre.
"My mother ran down the stairs with grandchildren in her arms talking to 111 when she fell and got badly injured and she's had to fight ACC all the way for help to cover that. Where's the fairness? We had to get an MP involved to tell ACC to pull their heads in," Van de Wetering said.
His 41-year-old brother still had pellets in his brain which were "slowly killing him". He suffered from horrific headaches.
"I know once he [Anderson] is let out permanently ... my mother will never return here to visit me. I have lost my whole family; I am the only one left in New Zealand now."
He was angry health authorities had not alerted the family to the fact Anderson was out on special leave and being prepared for release.
"The crims get treated better than the victims. Why does all this stuff go on behind our backs?
"You can't heal the brain with a couple of pills and call it quits. What if he [Anderson] decides not to take his medication? They should keep him locked up forever."
Sensible Sentencing Trust head Garth McVicar said the Van de Weterings should have been told that Anderson was being prepared for release.