Flashback: The umpire, the dominatrix, the falls, and the ill-timed visit

Peter Plumley-Walker's body was found below the Huka Falls near Taupo after he died during a bondage session.
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Peter Plumley-Walker's body was found below the Huka Falls near Taupo after he died during a bondage session.

Peter Plumley-Walker could watch an entire cricket game standing on his own two feet.

To argue the man enjoyed punishment would be an understatement.

But the brand of punishment that wound up with his body floating beneath the Huka Falls near Taupo, with its feet and hands bound, came from a darker, kinkier class of punishment entirely.

Renee Chignell's alleged price list showed to the court showed all sorts of kink many in New Zealand had never thought ...
Fairfax

Renee Chignell's alleged price list showed to the court showed all sorts of kink many in New Zealand had never thought of before.

It was early February 1989, when the 51-year-old's body, bloated and decomposing, was found by a jetboat operator in the Waikato River.

Within days, a secret life of the 51-year-old Auckland Cricket Umpire Association's secretary was beginning to leak.

"That secret life has involved him in some way in the circumstances that led to his death," Sergeant Neil Peterson said.

Peter Plumley-Walker died when a bondage session went wrong.
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Peter Plumley-Walker died when a bondage session went wrong.

Initially, homosexuality took the fall but Auckland dominatrix Renee Chignell, 18, and her boyfriend Neville Walker were soon in Auckland District Court charged with murder. 

Police claimed they had thrown him over Huka Falls still alive after a brutal and damaging - though not yet fatal - bondage session in her Auckland dungeon. In the end, even a pathologist was unable to say where the umpire died.

Death could have come at the falls or hours of driving north in an Auckland bondage room, where Plumley-Walker had earlier had bonds placed around his neck and was reportedly made to stand on tip-toes while he got thrashed.

The trial for the murder of Peter Plumley-Walker was believed to be the first time a portable computer was used in a New ...
Fairfax

The trial for the murder of Peter Plumley-Walker was believed to be the first time a portable computer was used in a New Zealand courtroom trial.

The jury believed police - that he was still alive as he was dumped in the falls - and both Chignell and Walker were sentenced to life imprisonment.

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It took three trials and more than two years before a jury accepted Plumley-Walker could have died due to natural causes in the $200 bondage session. Chignell and Walker walked free.

In 2009, Chignell broke her silence and talked to Metro magazine about the episode.

It was January 27, 1989, when he arrived for his session at her Remuera townhouse. Little would she have known, but Plumley-Walker's divorce had come through that day.

"He had very intense eyes. I remember feeling with Plumley-Walker that he was more than I could handle," she told Metro.

He wanted, she said, to be punished for his abuse of young girls.

Chignell told Metro how Plumley-Walker was OK with welts and bruises, that he wanted his nipples clamped with bulldog clips - something she would not do.

She didn't want to be there but it was her home.

"He wanted me to talk degrading to him. Things like, 'you're a filthy boy, kiss my shoe. You're a bad slave'."

He asked for heavy whipping. He was on his hands and knees, naked except for a latex mask, leather gag and a ball in his mouth.

She spanked the umpire with a riding crop.

She tied him to the wall like a crucifix with a collar round his neck - how he liked it - then went out of the room for a smoke and a coffee with her partner.

When she returned he was dead and blue. There was panic, a failed attempt at resuscitation, the big question - should they call the police?

Then came possibly the worst-timed visitor in New Zealand crime history.

Plumley-Walker's body was under a blanket in the dungeon when Chignell's mother arrived for fish and chips. She did not leave till near midnight.

In the first trial - notable for reportedly being the first time a lawyer had used a "portable computer" in a New Zealand courtroom - it was said Plumley-Walker's magazine collection included titles Amateur Bondage, Cane, Lashes, and People.

Chignell's alleged price list was also laid bare for all: Basic bondage, $130 ($236 in today's dollars); genital torture, $180 ($327); slave training, $140-$480 ($255-874).

Furthermore it was claimed by defence that the pre-dawn drive to Huka Falls that night, post-fish and chips, was driven by panic.

As Chignell would years later tell Metro, they had gone back to the bondage dungeon after her mother left from the fish and chip meal. They tied his feet and hands together and put him in the back of the umpire's Ford Cortina station wagon.

"Neville suggested the Huka Falls. I had never been there," she said.

"I cried most of the way about what had happened and what we would say when we got called in."

It was June, 1991, at the end of a third trial that a jury finally came around to Chignell and Walker's version of events - namely, Plumley-Walker's death was accidental and not caused by being thrown into Huka Falls.

Two months later, the newly-acquitted Walker returned to Auckland High Court's courtroom six with his lawyer Christopher Harder. The mood verged on banal.

Harder had paid $300 for the judge's bench, the dock, the jury and registrar's benches, the witness box and the Bar.

He planned to make a movie of the grim episode and brought the once-murder accused to come and help collect the props.

 - Stuff

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