John Key's killer paedophile joke disgusts victims' family

Last updated 16:57 11/11/2014

John Key jokes about escaped killer Phillip Smith, when authorities thought he was in Chile.

UNDER FIRE: Prime Minister John Key.

Relevant offers


Prime Minister Bill English: Barclay recording scandal 'handled as well as it could' One all on the political score card Duncan Garner: In a week of slip-ups and sweatshops, Winston Peters wins Below the beltway: In his favourite place, Winston Peters ends the week up Canterbury mayors call for Government to rethink immigration changes Chester Borrows looks back on 12 years in Parliament First-of-its-kind case as student takes Government to court over climate change Palmerston North mayor supports resettlement centre idea, but funding needed Former Urewera raids protester on regional council committee 'This is not how we do things': How National's composure was shattered by the Todd Barclay affair

The family of the man escaped prisoner Phillip John Smith killed, and the boy he abused, is revolted by Prime Minister John Key’s joke about his unauthorised disappearance.

Smith, 40, was imprisoned in 1996 for stabbing to death the father of a boy he molested. He was also convicted of molesting the boy over a three-year period.

Smith fled the country for Chile on Thursday last week - the day he got out of Springhill Prison in north Waikato on a temporary release.

Speaking to reporters at the Apec summit in Beijing, Key joked he would tell Chilean President Michelle Bachelet not to “invite [Smith] around for lunch”.

A spokeswoman for Key said he "certainly didn't intend for his comments to offend anyone".

However, the sister of the murdered man said: "He [Key] has made a joke of the whole country and its systems which he runs. I thought it was disgusting that he laughed about it.”

The sister said Key would not be making a joke if his family had been the victims of Smith.

“My nephew [Smith’s victim] wasn’t impressed at that either. It was another kick in the guts for him. It is really hard to see any humour in this for us. Some prime minister,” she said.

She said she held Key personally responsible for the failings of his government’s departments that have put her family at risk again.

“Do these people realise what they have just done? It is not just going to go away. What do we do? How do these boys carry on and know they are safe?” she said.

She had moved to escape her fear of Smith, one of her nephews moved overseas, and another was still under police protection.

“I know the boys are scared for their family. We are the only ones who got the sentence,” she said.

She was angry that no one had been held accountable for Smith’s disappearance and believes someone should resign immediately.

“How the hell can someone walk out of a prison cell and on to a plane? I want to know who signed this off, and who is going to be responsible,” she said.

Smith was initially thought to be in Chile, having flown there on a passport obtained under his birth name on Thursday while on temporary release from prison. He has now moved on to Brazil.

* Fugitive in Brazil

* Killer 'had passport help'

Speaking to reporters at the APEC summit in Beijing, Key said he would speak to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet about Smith today, but laughed off the situation.

"I'll just let her know that someone could be out there from New Zealand she may not want to invite round for lunch," Key said yesterday.

Labour Party corrections spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said Key's response to Smith absconding while on temporary release from prison was "shocking".

Ad Feedback

Ardern thought the prime minister had possibly been misquoted when she first read what he was reported to have said, but then heard the audio and Key laughing.  

"For the victim's family hearing something like that, hearing him treat such a serious situation in such a trivial manner, it's very poor," she said.

"Put yourself in the victim's shoes. Anyone who has read the original case which led to Phillip Smith being imprisoned, it's absolutely appalling, so [his escape] is no laughing matter."

Chilean authorities have since advised Smith travelled onwards to Brazil.

Ardern hoped Key would convey the message to his counterpart in Brazil with "the seriousness it deserves".

"I don't think any world leader who is going to be informed of our current predicament is going to find it funny." 

- Stuff

Special offers
Opinion poll

Should the speed limit be raised to 110kmh on some roads?



Vote Result

Related story: 110kmh limit moves closer

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content