Town's firebomb fury
A paedophile released after eight years in prison for crimes that included the drugging and violation of young boys has been driven from Turangi by a firebomb attack on his house.
Darren Simon Kihi - who has committed crimes against as many as 28 victims - was released from prison to live in Turangi last Sunday, after temporarily living in Taupo.
He was moved there because there was no room at a home in another town that offered support for sex offenders, a Parole Board report reveals.
The April report, released to the Waikato Times, said Kihi was at "very-high" risk of reoffending upon release, and the 42-year-old would pose a threat "almost immediately upon release", without supervision.
However, a month later the Parole Board agreed to release him to Turangi, where he'd been on work release for two years, and had guaranteed employment.
He was also placed on an extended supervision order which restricted his movements. While the Turangi community weren't privy to the extent of Kihi's offending, which took place elsewhere, they demanded the Corrections Department remove him.
But residents' frustrations boiled over this week, culminating in a molotov cocktail attack on Kihi's Paekiri St house about 6am yesterday. He was not home at the time.
The blast caused internal damage, rendering the house uninhabitable.
Police yesterday cordoned off the property and are investigating. The house is within a 1.5-kilometre radius of two schools.
The attack drew condemnation from Corrections Minister Anne Tolley, who described it as an "ugly incident".
"So-called vigilantes" breaking the law in such a manner would be jailed, she said.
Community Probation regional manager Heather Mackie said Kihi had undergone an intensive sex offender treatment programme and was making a "concerted effort" to turn his life around.
She condemned the arson attack and said Corrections would work with the police to ensure both the community, and Kihi, remained safe.
A public meeting was to be held in Turangi on Wednesday to discuss community concerns.
Resident Raymond Whyte said the town was sick of being "lumped" with offenders being released from nearby Tongariro/Rangipo Prison.
Another neighbour spoken to by the Times said Kihi would no longer be a concern as he would not be able to move back into the badly damaged house.
Mary Smallman, chairwoman of the Turangi/Tongariro Safer Community Council, said she was disappointed with the arson. "I was doing everything in my power to bring about some kind of resolution to this whole issue of having a sex offender planted right in the middle of our neighbourhood," she said.
However, she said the rumour mill was too quick and the anger built quickly in the small town.
"Whanau who are living on the street where this man is now residing are angry, confused and concerned for their tamariki," she said.
Tongariro High School principal Chris England said Community Probation told them a convicted offender had moved to town on Tuesday. They gave no details of his offending. The school sent out a newsletter warning parents to be vigilant but he was certain the children would be safe at school given Kihi worked 5am-6pm in the forest.
The case bears strong similarities to that of convicted paedophile Stuart Murray Wilson - known as the Beast of Blenheim - who is due to be released to Whanganui, much to the horror of residents. Whanganui Mayor Annette Main said she was sorry to hear of the Turangi incident, which she said was "not the solution to a national problem".
"I guess what you are seeing is the typical first reaction of people who don't know what to do, who feel powerless.
"But no one condones it," she said.
Additional reporting Libby O'Brien