A man charged with attempting to hire a hitman to kill his parents is a Destiny Church-goer who says he's given his heart to the church and self-described Bishop Brian Tamaki.
The Sunday Star-Times has learned that Alan Francis Barlow, charged with attempting to procure an undercover police officer to murder his parents, Kevin and Diana Barlow of Invercargill, joined the Tauranga branch of Destiny shortly before he is alleged to have met the officer at McDonald's in Huntly last October.
Barlow is Facebook friends with Tamaki and his wife Hannah, as well as Destiny Tauranga pastor Leon Samuels and his wife Lynda.
Barlow has told friends he was taken to a special Destiny gathering in Auckland last year, where he was prayed over by Tamaki during an "altar call" session - where those who wish to make a new commitment to Christ are invited to come forward publicly.
There is no suggestion anyone from Destiny Church had anything to do with the alleged murder plot or informing police.
Barlow, 42, denies the charge.
He told the Star-Times last week he was "set up by the cops" and it was a "completely bogus" charge.
"I'm not into murder - I'm a Christian. I'm into saving lives, not destroying them."
The Star-Times understands police launched a sting operation after being contacted by a concerned Facebook friend of Barlow's.
Barlow said he was contacted by phone by a person calling himself "the fixer".
"He said, 'I'm a fixer, I fix problems'. I thought he was talking about plumbing or something."
He said he met the person at Huntly McDonald's out of curiosity. "He started talking about murder. He actually said he'd killed someone that morning. I said 'go away'."
Barlow said the person, who appeared to be a "low-life", continued to badger him by phone to make a $2000 deposit for the alleged proposed $20,000 hit.
He went to the Tauranga police station the next day to report someone had offered to kill his parents, but did not know if the person he spoke to kept a record of it.
Barlow said he went to Auckland in October and gave his heart to Destiny. He had previously been a Catholic but did not believe the Catholic church followed the word of the Bible closely enough. "I've met [Bishop] Brian, he's a nice guy, a great guy."
Barlow said he went to Destiny services every Sunday and also attended the church's PH12 "Powerhouse" meetings during the week.
He has told friends that he has found some "adoptive parents" through the church, and plans to make money from a perpetual motion machine he has invented in order to keep up with tithing requirements. Barlow confirmed he was an inventor but did not want to discuss details of his tithing. He said he made no secret of the charge he was facing at church meetings. "If anyone asks, I tell them."
Samuels said the church was aware of the charge against Barlow but he was still welcome at the church.
"I can't say to anyone whether they can come or not. This is a legal, court process, that's where it stands for us. Whatever the judgment is . . . we have an obligation to support him and his family in whatever way we can."
A spokesperson for Tamaki said he did not know Barlow. "We anticipate the courts and legal system will have to follow due process, as with any other case before them," the spokesman said.
Barlow will stand trial in Rotorua in August.
- Sunday Star Times