By TONY WALL
Glen Innes residents saw Taffy Hotene lifting Kylie Jones to her feet minutes before he stabbed her to death, but assumed he was helping her and did nothing.
They then watched Hotene lead Ms Jones into a dark reserve, where he tied her up and stabbed her repeatedly.
The next day Hotene admitted himself to hospital, telling staff he was Jones' uncle and he could not stay because he had to attend her tangi.
Auckland police later went to the hospital undercover and watched Hotene from a distance, anxious not to scare him in case he lashed out at the nurses who were tending to injuries he suffered during the murder.
The fresh details have emerged as part of a Weekend Herald investigation into events surrounding the June 6 killing.
Hotene pleaded guilty this week to murdering Ms Jones, aged 23.
It was previously reported that no one saw the Tuesday evening attack.
But police say a family across the road from the Eastview Reserve in Line Rd saw Hotene bending over Ms Jones after he had "king-hit" her and sent her sprawling to the ground.
The family had been watching television and heard two piercing screams.
"They looked out ... and saw a woman on the ground being helped to her feet," said Detective Senior Sergeant Stu Allsopp-Smith.
"They did not realise it was an attack. It was dark and wet ... They thought she had tripped over and he was helping her up."
The family then watched as the man escorted the woman into the unlit reserve.
A family member told the Weekend Herald she regretted not doing more.
In the reserve, Hotene beat Ms Jones about the face. He used a butcher's knife with an 18cm blade to cut her clothes from her body.
He tied her arms behind her back with her skirt, and bound her ankles with a piece of her camisole.
Before he killed her, he forced her to reveal her credit card PIN number.
Hotene then cut her throat, stabbed her twice in the back and up to 15 times in the torso and abdomen.
Police are awaiting forensic tests to determine if Ms Jones was raped. Hotene claims he staged the scene to make it look like a sex attack, but did not rape her.
After the murder, Hotene changed his clothes and went to the Glen Innes shops, withdrawing about $800 from Ms Jones' account.
A woman standing in line behind him at the bank machine got "bad vibes" and took a note of his appearance.
Hotene used the money to buy large amounts of takeaways and alcohol, leaving Ms Jones' keys on a counter.
He hired a taxi, picked up friends and went to a flat in Maybury St, where he partied into the night.
Meanwhile, Kylie's family had called police when she did not arrive home. Just after midnight, Sergeant Matt Wyllie found her body lying face-down in a creek in the reserve.
Detective Senior Sergeant Allsopp-Smith said: "When the pathologist saw the state of the body, he said: 'You've got a lunatic out there'."
Police were worried he would strike again, and began trawling through files on recently released prisoners.
On Wednesday morning, Hotene took a train to Middlemore Hospital.
He had an infected cut on the back of his hand, which he told staff was from "hitting a guy in the face."
After an operation, Hotene made the bizarre claim that he was Ms Jones' uncle, and discharged himself.
By Thursday, police had spoken to the woman who was at the ATM and had matched the description she gave to that of a recently released prisoner, Taffy Hotene, who had gone on a rampage in Wanganui eight years earlier, attacking three women.
On the Friday, a plainclothes police officer went to Middlemore and observed the killer from a distance.
"We were dealing with a lunatic. We had no idea what he would do," said Detective Senior Sergeant Allsopp-Smith.
"Bearing in mind what he did in Wanganui, here he was with patients and female nurses, so we left an officer there until he discharged himself."
When Hotene left, the officer followed him on to a northbound train. Hotene got off at Panmure and the officer lost him.
The next morning, police found him at his brother's house and arrested him.
Hotene initially denied killing Ms Jones, but then confessed. He showed no remorse.
On the Sunday morning, he took police back to the reserve and recreated his crime.
By TONY WALL